Whoa.

The Times is reporting that Arlen Specter, the senior senator from Pennsylvania, is changing his party affiliation to Democrat.

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said he would switch to the Democratic party Tuesday, potentially presenting Democrats with a possible 60th vote and the power to break Senate filibusters as they try to advance the Obama administration’s new agenda.

Congressional aides and others close to the long-time Republican party maverick said Mr. Specter, who faced a difficult re-election next year, was going to announce he would become a Democrat.

If Al Franken prevails in his ongoing court case in Minnesota and Mr. Specter begins caucusing with Democrats, Democrats would have 60 votes and the ability to deny Republicans the chance to stall legislation. Mr. Specter was one of only three Republicans to support President Obama’s economic recovery legislation.

“We will welcome him with open arms,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan.

UPDATE: Here’s Specter’s full statement.

I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.

I deeply regret that I will be disappointing many friends and supporters. I can understand their disappointment. I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides. I thank specially Senators McConnell and Cornyn for their forbearance.

I am not making this decision because there are no important and interesting opportunities outside the Senate. I take on this complicated run for re-election because I am deeply concerned about the future of our country and I believe I have a significant contribution to make on many of the key issues of the day, especially medical research. NIH funding has saved or lengthened thousands of lives, including mine, and much more needs to be done. And my seniority is very important to continue to bring important projects vital to Pennsylvania’s economy.

I am taking this action now because there are fewer than thirteen months to the 2010 Pennsylvania Primary and there is much to be done in preparation for that election. Upon request, I will return campaign contributions contributed during this cycle.

While each member of the Senate caucuses with his Party, what each of us hopes to accomplish is distinct from his party affiliation. The American people do not care which Party solves the problems confronting our nation. And no Senator, no matter how loyal he is to his Party, should or would put party loyalty above his duty to the state and nation.

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. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.

Whatever my party affiliation, I will continue to be guided by President Kennedy’s statement that sometimes Party asks too much. When it does, I will continue my independent voting and follow my conscience on what I think is best for Pennsylvania and America.

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Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs about race and ethnicity for National Public Radio. He is a native of South Philly and reads and writes and runs and rants. You can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to him on Facebook.

10 comments to Whoa.

  • Teh fucking awesome. Now if Minnesota would just get their shit together and seat Franken already….

  • young_

    Actually, it kinda sounds like he was shook that he wouldn’t make it out of the GOP primary…

  • Shorter Specter: I didn’t leave the Republican party…the Republican party left me.

    As I said to you, earlier, G.D., this says two things: one, he knows which side his bread is buttered on, and two, the Republican party is bleeding moderates at a time when it cannot afford to do so.

  • I think this is more about political self-preservation than anything else. It’s definitely a step in the right (left) direction but you have to wonder how he’ll vote.

    Will he be in the blue dog camp, or will be a reliable northeast-style Dem vote? Or will he be an all-out flake like Lieberman?

    I imagine some of that depends on the amount of pull and seniority he’ll be granted among the Dems, something I’m sure they’ve been hashing out for quite awhile.

  • Yeah. he’s a crafty bastard. And he’s really been taking a lot of shit from the GOP’s most high-profile names lately. This is a really, really bold move.

  • of course, there’s a substantial element of career preservation here. but he (and he two senators from Maine) were the only Republicans who voted for Obama’s stimulus. He was in the party’s crosshairs, and like glory’s link above says, they couldn’t have picked a worse time to alienate him.

  • quadmoniker

    I imagine that he’ll be more like Lieberman. Possibly slightly closer to the Blue Dogs. You know what Carville said about Pennsylvania.

  • Jessica

    Re: what Carville said about PA, I’m by no means an expert on Pennsylvania politics, but having lived here through the last election cycle it does seem like things are changing. Like Specter pointed out in his statement, huge numbers of Republicans switched their party registration, and this after lots of pundits were saying that the Democrats would have had a good chance with Hillary Clinton as the candidate but were playing dangerous by running a black candidate.

  • ladyfresshh

    love that: Shorter Specter: I didn’t leave the Republican party…the Republican party left me.

    i’m with black ink about self preservation but it seems the rep party also left him little choice…

    no one puts arlen in a corner… lol

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