In it, but not of it. TPM DC

It's been a day for changing titles. Former Kansas governor was confirmed earlier this evening to be President Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services. The vote was 65-31. Among the 65 was former Republican Arlen Specter (D-PA). We'll post the Roll Call when it comes down the pipe.

Interestingly, Specter also voted in support of an major piece of anti-fraud legislation earlier today, and, in that roll call, the Senate website still lists him as a Republican. Amateurs.

Anyhow, NARAL/Pro-Choice America has been pushing hard for Sebelius' confirmation, and the group's president, Nancy Keenan, had this to say:

We applaud the Senate's vote to confirm the eminently-qualified Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to serve in this critical position. Anti-choice advocates tried every desperate trick in the book to derail her confirmation, but this vote shows that a majority of senators understand that Americans are tired of the antagonistic politics of the past. As our country faces challenges on a number of fronts, especially on the issue of affordable health care, we look forward to ensuring that women's health and sound science are a priority, rather than the failed political maneuvering that damaged this agency during the previous Bush administration.


Late update: Roll call here. He's still listed as a Republican. Somebody should call the clerk!

Earlier in the afternoon today, Michael Steele appeared on CNN and was asked whether he was surprised about the developments with Arlen Specter.

"No I'm not, to be honest with you I had a feeling," said Steele. "Sen. Specter had very few options at this point. He had stepped on the toes of many Republicans with his vote on the stimulus bill, which is a core principle in terms of our views on economics."

In the course of the interview, Steele elaborated on his displeasure with Specter for having betrayed Republicans who'd supported him in the past.

"For the senator to flip the bird back to Senator Cornyn and the Republican Senate Leadership, a team that stood by him, who went to the bat for him in 2004, to save his hide is not only disrespectful but down right rude," said Steele. "I'm sure his mama didn't raise him this way."

Thusfar, no decisions have been made with respect to Sen. Specter's committee assignments. At least, that's the official world. But here's the lay of the land.

As I noted earlier, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)--the senior member of the Judiciary Committee behind (at least until today) Arlen Specter--can not become its ranking member. His staff confirms it. The rules of the Senate Republican Conference forbid it. Hatch was chairman of that committee from 1995-2001 (with a brief interruption in 2001 thanks to Jim Jeffords) and then again from 2003-2005, and conference rules stipulate that "[o]nce a Senator has completed six years as Chairman of a committee, there will be no further opportunity for that Senator to serve as Ranking Member of that same committee if control of the Senate shifts and Republicans go into the Minority."

Behind Hatch, though, are Sens. Grassley (R-IA), Kyl (R-AZ), and Sessions (R-AL). Let's tackle them in reverse order.

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Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairman T.J. Rooney put out this statement welcoming Arlen Specter to the party -- and essentially saying that Specter will have the state party's official support in 2010:

"The Pennsylvania Democratic Party welcomes Sen. Arlen Specter with open arms as he has been a tremendous influence on Pennsylvania and has always voted his conscience for the good of his constituents.

"It was the Republican Party that abandoned Arlen Specter, not the other way around. He has been good for the commonwealth and has taken courageous stands, such as supporting President Barack Obama's stimulus plan that is already helping hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.

"While the endorsement process is, obviously, a long time from now, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has a long-standing practice of supporting Democratic incumbents."

Pennsylvania Republican Party chairman Rob Gleason put out this statement today on Arlen Specter's defection to the Democrats:

"I am deeply disappointed in Senator Arlen Specter's decision to leave the Republican Party, as he has benefited from the support of our Party for many years. It is apparent that he chose to act in his own self-interest and put his political ambitions first. The Republican Party has room for conservatives and moderates because we are the Party of ideas.

"I, like many of my fellow Pennsylvania Republicans, took Senator Specter at his word when he said that he would not switch parties, and I believe he owes every Republican who has supported him over the last three decades an apology. I would urge Senator Specter to do the right thing and proactively return any and all campaign contributions he has received in recent months to run as a Republican in the upcoming election. I am sure that most, if not all, of these donors would not have supported a Democrat candidate.

"Senator Arlen Specter can rest assured that we are committed to winning this seat back for the Republican Party in 2010. I am confident that we will win this seat back."

So much is in flux right now that it's hard to keep everything straight, but here's an important update. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) will support the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Johnsen is a professor at Indiana University--one of Lugar's constituents--and, as such, it makes sense that Lugar would be a swing vote.

Assuming nobody in the Democratic caucus (save, perhaps, it's newest member) chooses to obstruct, that leaves Democrats one vote shy of the 60-votes needed to break a potential Republican filibuster. And that doesn't account for the fact that a number of Republicans (moderates, and others who are on the record opposing the filibuster of presidential nominees) have yet to break silence.

Earlier today once and current Democrat Arlen Specter said he opposes Johnsen's nomination, but his staff was unable to confirm just yet whether that means he'd support a filibuster or not.

Vice President Joe Biden released this statement on Arlen Specter's party switch:

"I welcome my old friend to the Democratic Party. Senator Arlen Specter is a man of remarkable courage and integrity. I know he will remain a powerful and independent voice for Pennsylvania and the country."

DSCC chairman Bob Menendez has released this statement on Arlen Specter's party switch:

"We welcome Senator Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party. The more the merrier. I just spoke with the Senator on the phone, told him that I look forward to supporting him and making sure this seat stays Democratic in November of 2010.

But today's news is proof positive that the Republican Party is so out of touch with Americans that they're losing one of its most prominent leaders. The Republican leadership in Congress, by obstructing and blocking progress at every turn, has poisoned the Republican party to a point where one of its own has to jump ship.

We thought Republicans may have hit rock bottom in November, but given their current strategy the hole they're digging keeps getting deeper. If Republicans continue to vote against progress and bet against the American economy, today's blow will be nothing compared to the long-term loss they will feel for years to come."

Michele Bachmann is at it again: Attributing flu pandemics to Democratic presidents.

Bachmann did an interview with the right-wing Pajamas Media, and had this to say:



"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter," said Bachmann. "And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."

As the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages points out, Bachmann has the 1970s flu outbreak all wrong. It happened in 1976 when Gerald Ford was in office.

This also shows just how shallow Bachmann's historical understanding is. She could have easily also referred back to the infamous 1918 Spanish flu pandemic -- Woodrow Wilson was president at that time, don't you know!

DNC Chairman Tim Kaine has put out a statement welcoming Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party, simultaneously offering the newest Dem Senator the party's full support and castigating the GOP for driving away moderates.

Key quote:

"As Senator Specter noted, the Republican Party has drifted far to the right and seems more interested in ideology, conflict and obstruction than in working constructively to address the nation's problems, and no longer appeals to moderates, including Senator Specter. I commend Senator Specter on his decision to work with President Obama and Senate Democrats to help turn our economy around, create jobs and put the country back on the right track. We are thrilled to welcome Senator Specter into the Democratic fold and he can count on our full support."


Full statement after the jump.

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