This morning, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter decided to leave the Republican Party — saying it “has moved far to the right” — and join the Democrats. President Obama was informed of Specter’s decision this morning and called to welcome him to the party. White House sources told ABC News that Specter pledged loyalty to Obama’s agenda:
At 10:32am, President Barack Obama reached Specter and told him “you have my full support” and “thrilled to have you.”
Specter told the president, “I’m a loyal Democrat. I support your agenda.”
Just hours later, however, Specter reaffirmed his unfounded opposition to Obama’s pick to head the Office of Legal Counsel, Dawn Johnsen:
Q: How are going to vote on the Dawn Johnsen confirmation?
SPECTER: I’m opposed to the nominee for Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Council, Dawn Johnsen.
Johnsen has been a tireless advocate for limited executive power firmly bounded by law, not to mention a strong torture opponent — concerns Specter purportedly shares. In March, while still a Republican, Specter said that filibustering Johnsen was “under consideration,” though he never explained the basis for his opposition. Indeed, Specter declared his opposition to Johnsen just seconds after explaining that his opposition to warrantless wiretapping and Bush’s interrogation tactics were part of his decision to leave the GOP.
Rumor in Washington has it that Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) may step down from the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, giving the seat to Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) — and opening the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee to the new Democrat, Specter. From this post, Specter could indefinitely delay hearings on Johnsen, not to mention completely kill Leahy’s efforts to hold a truth commission to examine Bush’s use of torture and other illegal practices.
Specter also reaffirmed his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act today. Apparently to Specter, opposing progressive legal nominees and stomping on workers’ rights is all part of proving he is a “loyal Democrat” in support of Obama’s agenda.
Brad Johnson notes Specter’s long voting record opposing a new clean economy.
,Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) said today he would support Johnsen’s nomination, becoming the first Republican to publicly support her.