TPM News

Specter at the Supreme Court nomination hearing of Robert Bork, September 1987.

Newscom/Zuma



Newscom/KRT

Vice President Joe Biden and Specter talk as they ride the train to Philadelphia along with members of the Middle Class Task Force for the Task Force's first meeting Friday, Feb. 27, 2009

White House Photo

Specter with C. Everett Coop and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) at the nomination of Coop as Surgeon General, November, 1981.

usasearch.gov

Specter campaigning for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Gov. Sarah Palin, September, 2008.

Newscom/KRT

Specter with former vice president Dick Cheney and former senator Jim Jeffords.

Newscom/Zuma

Specter returns with President Bush to the White House after a day trip to Pennsylvania.

Newscom/UPI

Former President Bush shakes Specter's hand after signing the Patriot Act, March, 2006.

White House Photo

Specter with then-Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft.

Newscom/Zuma

Specter meets with Trent Lott on the third day of the Republican National Convention, September, 2008.

Newscom/UPI

Specter listens to the testimony of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee, July 2007.

Newscom/UPI

Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) speaks to Specter during the first appearance of Attorney General Michael Mukasey before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Newscom/CQ

Specter with Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE).

Newscom/RP

Specter waves to the crowd at a campaign town hall meeting for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Newscom/CP

Sen. Hugh Scott raises Specter's hand as the winner of the campaign for Philadelphia District Attorney.

Newscom/RP

Specter with his wife, Joan.

specter.senate.gov



specter.senate.gov

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.

Read More →

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!

Reps. John Conyers and Jerry Nadler want a special prosecutor to investigate whether Bush administration officials committed crimes in ordering and justifying torture policies.

In a just-released letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the Democratic lawmakers write:

The authorization and use of interrogation techniques that likely amounted to torture has generated concern and outrage in this country, and has harmed our legal and moral standing in the world. As a country committed to the rule of law, we must investigate and demand accountability for acts of torture committed by or own our behalf (sic). Appointing a special counsel to undertake this task would serve the interests of the department and of the public in ensuring that the necessary investigation is through and impartial, and that the United States fairly investigates serious and credible accusations of misconduct, even where high-ranking government officials may be involved.

Read More →

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.

Read More →

TPMLivewire