Reid Stresses Bipartisanship After Specter Defection

05/29/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hailed the defection of former Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) to the Democratic party Tuesday, saying he welcomed "Senator Specter and his moderate voice to our diverse caucus."

With Specter as a Democrat, the party controls 59 seats in the upper chamber. When Minnesota's Al Franken is seated, Democrats will boast a filibuster-busting 60 votes, rendering the opposition party impotent -- at least theoretically. Like a good sportsman, Reid stressed bipartisanship in his statement.

"Before this happened, it was critical the Democrats and the Republicans work together to deliver the change that the American people have demanded now," Reid said. "That's not any less critical today than it was yesterday. It's still as true as ever."

For his part, Specter said he wouldn't necessarily do as the Democrats do.

"I will not be changing my own personal independence or any own approach to individual issues," Specter said. "I will not be an automatic 60th vote. I note that some of the news stories since my statement was released this morning are taking a look at the 60th vote, and I will not be an automatic 60th vote."

To make his point, Specter trumpeted another switcheroo -- his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would make it easier for workers to form unions. Specter had supported the bill before he came out against it this year.

"I have always agreed with John Kennedy that sometimes the party asks too much, and if the Democratic party asks too much," Specter said, "I will not hesitate to disagree and vote my independent thinking and what I consider as a matter of conscience to be in the interest of the state and nation."

Reid kept his comments more vanilla:

"Democrats and Republicans must still work together to help our economy drop develop and save jobs," he said. "Democrats and Republicans must work together to help hard working families keep their homes. Democrats and Republicans must still work together to make health care more affordable, invest in renewable energy and help all people in America to get an education. Democrats and Republicans must still work together to ensure our troops have the resources they need to more effectively fight extremists in the middle east and around the world. but there's a lot of work to do."

Suggest a correction