Democrats eager to see what kind of Senator Arlen Specter would be now that he has left the Republican Party likely weren't counting their blessings after watching his appearance on "Meet the Press" this Sunday.
The Pennsylvanian, while insisting that his switch in party affiliation was driven as much by values as politics, nevertheless came out forcefully against two of progressives' most cherished policies.
On the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow for easier unionization, Specter strongly suggested -- as he did during the speech announcing his party switch -- that he would support a filibuster of the legislation. "I'm still against that bill," he said. "Democrats are all for it. Republicans are all against it. I'm the critical vote. If I see that there are other issues where I feel a matter of conscience, I will continue a filibuster against legislation."
On a public option for health insurance -- which conservatives claim will end the private market, but most observers say could bring down the costs of coverage for millions of Americans -- Specter said he would be in opposition. "That's what I said and that's what I meant," he added later, when asked if he would vote "no" on public health care.
At several other points, Specter did lay out areas in which he had "diverged materially from the Republican line," including raising the minimum wage, the stimulus package and abortion rights. But he went to great lengths to insist that he did not, as reported, tell Democratic leadership or the White House that he would be a loyal party member.
"I did not say," he told host David Gregory, "I would be a loyal Democrat. I did not say that."
Perhaps the strongest evidence of where Specter's sentiments currently lie came when he lamented the fact that, because the GOP lacked a Senate majority from 2006 through 2008, "34 Republican judges" were "left on the table unconfirmed."
"The [conservative] Club for Growth has undertaken campaigns to defeat moderate Republicans in the primaries knowing that they would lose in the general election. Take one case that was slightly different on procedure and that was Linc[oln] Chafee. The Club for Growth beat Linc Chafee, made him spend his money on the primary," Specter explained. "Had Linc Chaffee been elected in 2006, the Republican Party would have controlled the Senate in 2007 and 2008 and would have confirmed 34 Republican judges which were left on the table unconfirmed. I think that my colleague senator Olympia Snowe had it right in her New York Times op-ed piece, that you have to have a big tent."
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