Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who until late April of this year was a lifelong Republican, castigated his former party this morning on Fox News. Specter ripped the GOP for refusing to be a good-faith negotiator in the health care debate:
'On the Republican side, it’s no, no, no. A party of obstructionism. … You have responsible Republicans who had been in the Senate — like Howard Baker, Bob Dole, or Bill Frist — who say Republicans ought to cooperate. Well, they’re not cooperating.
Specter also indicated he would fight hard for the public option. “I’m not prepared to recede at all. I think the public option is gaining momentum,” he said. “I am not going to step back a bit. I am going to fight for the best public option."
The original story Think Progress blurb (linked above) includes a forty second video of Specter waxing querulous against the GOP. I was rather impressed in one sense. The quoted article included another link to this story. He sounds like an old line New Dealer promising Medicare For All in the Nixon administration when he gets on his ear. It's an amusing change of tenor. When Specter originally changed parties earlier this year he said, "I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture.'' Now he is promising to be a liberal lion on the health care issue.
Naturally there are political issues at stake. Specter represents a state where, by his own calculations when he himself changed parties, 200,000 of his constituents switched from the GOP to the Democratic Party on issues like labor and health care. He had been facing a challenge from a threatening primary challenger as a Republican and his core support base has gradually shifted parties. He is still facing a more liberal Democratic Party challenger this mid-term and so it certainly behooves him to be a strong liberal voice on health care in order to convince his new party that he would serve them better than a new face.
If it means a better health care bill, however, good for Arlen Specter. While I've never been certain I'd vote for him if I lived in Pennsylvania, I've always felt that he was a genuinely independent lawmaker who stood for his constituents over party ideology. Since the interests of many of his constituents are directly related to his new party's ideology on health care, he is likely much more comfortable as a Democrat.
Living in Tennessee, I'm not directly concerned in Specter's continuing political fortunes... but it is terribly difficult not to root for him just to spite the GOP.