By John Jalsevac
April 28, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Arlen Specter, the pro-abortion senior Republican senator from Pennsylvania, has announced that he intends to switch parties, and will seek re-election in 2010 as a Democratic candidate.
Specter has been a Republican senator since his election in 1980. However, in a statement released today Specter said that since the 1980s the Republican Party has moved too far to the right. "I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans," he said.
The senator has been a long-term support of legalized abortion, though he has claimed that he is "personally" against abortion. The National Right to Life Committee gave Specter a 0% rating in 2006, meaning that in his voting record he is firmly "pro-choice."
President Obama has reportedly welcomed the news of the switch. "You have my full support, and we’re thrilled to have you," Obama told Specter in a telephone call today, according to CNN.
Pro-life leaders have responded to the senator’s announcement by observing that Specter’s values on life and the family have been more in line with the Democratic Party for a long time.
In an interview with LifeSiteNews, Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said that Specter’s decision changes little in terms of the fight for the right to life in America, but added that it does help clarify Specter’s position.
"It’s good when people are forced to pick sides," he said. "I would rather have a handful of good men and women who we can count on, than an entire House and Senate of people that waffle every time it comes to the life issue.
"We need to get rid of people like Specter who never caucused with us, who fought against us."
National Right to Life Committee legislative director Douglas Johnson, agreed that Specter’s move isn’t a huge game-changer for the pro-life cause. "Specter has a long pro-abortion record," he said. "He voted against us virtually all the time on issues touching on abortion. So it’s not going to change the numbers."
However, he did point out that Specter’s move from the Republican Party could serve to weaken the party’s influence in certain "procedural matters," and could affect the process of confirming judges.
Newman also observed that Specter’s switch signals that Pat Toomey, the pro-life candidate who ran against Specter in the 2004 Republican primaries, "is a viable candidate." Specter’s move, said Newman, indicates that he believed that Toomey had a good chance of beating him in the primary and forcing him out of the Senate.
Toomey nearly defeated Specter in the 2004 primaries. He has said that he will again seek the Republican ticket in 2010, and with Specter’s defection he is currently the only Republican that has announced his candidacy.
Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele ripped into Specter in a statement today, saying that the senator’s switch was not based upon principles, but upon political expediency.
"Let’s be honest - Sen. Specter didn’t leave the GOP based on principles of any kind," he said. "He left to further his personal political interests because he knew that he was going to lose a Republican primary due to his left-wing voting record."
Steele said Republicans "look forward to beating Sen. Specter in 2010, assuming the Democrats don’t do it first."
Specter’s switch could reportedly serve to bring the Democratic Senate majority to a filibuster-proof 60 vote, if Al Franken holds his lead in the Minnesota Senate race. However, Specter denied in today’s statement that the switch meant a change in party control. "My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans," he said.
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