(Source: NBC’s Meet the Press)
MR. GREGORY: We are back, and joining us live now from Philadelphia, the Senate’s newest Democrat, Arlen Specter.
Senator, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
SEN. SPECTER: Thank you, David. Nice to be with you.
MR. GREGORY: Thank you. Your decision–or since your decision there’s been some pretty big news. We’ll get to the reasons for your decision in just a moment. But I want to talk about the retirement of Justice Souter and the vacancy to the Supreme Court that President Obama will now fill. You have a fair amount of experience with this as the former Judiciary chairman, and you might return to that post even as a Democrat. So what kind of justice should President Obama be looking for?
SEN. SPECTER: He should be looking for someone with a strong academic and professional background. It would be my hope that he would choose someone with diversity. Women are underrepresented on the court. We don’t have an Hispanic. African-Americans are underrepresented. I would hope that he would look beyond the circuit courts of appeals which now populate the Supreme Court and pick someone with greater world experience and diversity.
(Source: White House Press Office)
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Mr. President, as we used to say in the Senate, I hope you’ll excuse a point of personal privilege here. I — Arlen Specter has been my friend and my confidant and my partner, and I his partner, in scores and scores of major, major pieces of legislation and issues for a long time. And beyond that, Mr. President, he’s been there for me every time things have been tough for me, and I hope I have been there for him.
And it gives me great pleasure, great pleasure, Mr. President, to now officially be in the same caucus with Arlen Specter. We’ve ridden the train for so many years, we’ve visited each other’s homes, our families, that it is — it’s just, as, again, a point of personal privilege, it’s just a delight to have no separation.
(Source: CNN)PHILLIPS: Well, you can still feel the shock waves here in Washington. It was our top story today, longtime Republican Senator Arlen Specter turning his back on his Republican Party, a party he had been part of for decades, and going Democrat. Reaction within the Republican Party, our Dana Bash said “shell shocked” was the feeling.
I can imagine what RNC Chair Michael Steele is feeling. He’s joining me by phone in Irving, Texas.
Chairman, let me ask you, are you surprised? Are you shocked?
MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE (via telephone): No, I’m not, to be honest with you. No, I’m not. I had a feeling. I mean, he had very — Senator Specter had very few options at this point. He had stepped on the toes of a lot of Republicans with his vote to on the stimulus bill, which was a core principle for us in terms of our views on economics.
And you know, admittedly, a lot of Republicans weren’t happy about the end of the Bush administration in terms of putting in motion this bailout process. But to have the senator confirm that, really, you know, made it tough. And so, I think he saw that tough primary challenges coming ahead for him. I think he also saw a tough re- election in a general election.
And to me, this was not a question of, oh, gee, all of a sudden I found principles as a Democrat. This is about political survival, and this is about, you know, taking advantage of an opportunity and, you know, moving a little bit closer to where he’s ideologically planted. That’s perfectly fine. But, you know, from our perspective, I think this is less about, you know, some philosophical issue as it is more of a political survivor issue.
(Source: CQ Transcriptswire)SPEAKER: SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, D-PA.
SPECTER: As the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy the Democratic Party. When the stimulus package came up for a vote, I felt that it was indispensable to vote aye in order to avoid the possibility of a 1929-type depression. In the course of the last several months since the stimulus vote, I have traveled the state and surveyed the sentiments of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania and public opinion polls, observed other public opinion polls and have found that the prospects for winning a Republican primary are bleak.
I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate — not prepared to have that record decided by that jury, the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate.
(Source: New York Times)
Sen. Specter’s Statement on His Decision to Switch Parties
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.
- Specter joins Democrats – New York Times
In a statement issued about noon as the Capitol was digesting the stunning turn of events, Mr. Specter said he had concluded that his party had moved too far to the right, a fact demonstrated by the migration of 200,000 Pennsylvania Republicans to the Democratic Party.
“I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans,” Mr. Specter said, acknowledging that his decision was certain to disappoint colleagues and supporters.