The pundits are making much of Senator Arlen Specter’s defection to Democrats as proof that a “moderate” Republican can’t survive in the GOP; that it puts the Senate Democrats on the verge of that 60-vote threshold needed to cut off debate and move legislation if the cagey Specter goes along. Politically, it clears the way for Specter to skip out on a difficult if not impossible primary. Unlike Connecticut where the “independent” Joe Lieberman put himself on the November ballot after losing the Democratic primary in 2006, Pennsylvania has a sore loser law that would probibit Specter from running on a third line.
Despite all the national implications and the rightward drift of Republicans, don’t look for Specter to mimic Lieberman’s self-serving pleas for bipartisanship. Specter’s calculated move has a lot more to do with “bringing home the bacon” via Congressional earmarks — something he is a master of in his role as ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. A recent Washington Post story “If ‘Earmark’ is a dirty word, Pennsylvanians must be blushing” confirms how prolific Specter is at federal largess. A free ride with the Democrats could put Specter in the majority and add clout to his ability to underwrite his annual wish list from back home. Small wonder Specter didn’t leave the Republican caucus earlier over John McCain’s hammering away at earmarks, be they good or bad pork.
If Harry Reid really needs a vote from Specter, he already knows the way forward will be to serve up a few more earmarks for the newest member of the Democratic caucus.