Specter toes Dem line while Brown goes own way

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

De­spite pledg­ing not to be an au­to­matic vote for Democrats, in the nearly one year since he switched par­ties, Sen. Arlen Specter has been all but that, re­peat­edly sup­port­ing his new party when they needed to head off Repub­li­can fil­i­busters.

The sen­a­tor from Penn­syl­va­nia has voted with fel­low Democrats 39 times to cut off fil­i­busters, while just once has he voted against his lead­ers when he joined an ef­fort to block the con­fir­ma­tion of Fed­eral Re­serve Board Chair­man Ben S. Ber­nanke to a new term.

Mean­while, on the other side of the aisle, Sen. Scott Brown has so far made good on his vow to vote in­de­pen­dently, hav­ing sup­ported Democrats on six of the nine fil­i­buster votes taken dur­ing his two-plus months in of­fice.

With Democrats hold­ing such a large ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, clo­ture votes, which ef­fec­tively move to limit de­bate and al­low ac­tion to pro­ceed, have be­come a good way of judg­ing party fealty.

For most of the time since his April 28, 2009, party switch, Mr. Specter rep­re­sented the crit­i­cal 60th vote for Democrats. But when Mr. Brown won a spe­cial elec­tion and was sworn in on Feb. 4, he gave Repub­li­cans the cru­cial 41st vote, al­low­ing them to fil­i­buster — if they all hold to­gether.

Last year, when he switched par­ties af­ter see­ing he had lit­tle chance of win­ning re-elec­tion as a Repub­li­can, Mr. Specter told re­porters his new party should not as­sume his sup­port was guar­an­teed.

“I will not be chang­ing my own per­sonal in­de­pen­dence or my own ap­proach to in­di­vid­ual is­sues. I will not be an au­to­matic 60th vote,” he said, adding, “If the Demo­cratic Party asks too much, I will not vote with them.”

Since then, though, he’s backed his new party at nearly ev­ery turn, and he says it’s part of a pat­tern he’s shown no mat­ter who was in charge of Congress and no mat­ter what his party af­fil­i­a­tion was.

He said in a brief in­ter­view two weeks ago that his ap­proach has been to fa­vor let­ting de­bate go for­ward.

“I’ve con­sis­tently voted for clo­ture to take things up,” he said, point­ing to his 2008 vote, when he was still a Repub­li­can, in fa­vor of Demo­cratic lead­ers’ de­sire to take up the Em­ployee Free Choice Act, which would make it eas­ier for la­bor unions to or­ga­nize. Mr. Specter said he didn’t sup­port that bill but voted for clo­ture so that it could be de­bated.

Many sen­a­tors, in­clud­ing Mr. Brown, draw the same dis­tinc­tion, say­ing that they feel free to vote against a bill or nom­i­na­tion on an up-or-down vote, but are re­luc­tant to shut off the process al­to­gether by way of a fil­i­buster.

Still, Mr. Specter’s sup­port for Democrats over the past year stands in stark con­trast to his be­hav­ior as a Repub­li­can, when he was far more se­lec­tive in his clo­ture votes.

For ex­am­ple, dur­ing the year be­fore his party switch, when Democrats were in power, Mr. Specter gave them sup­port of clo­ture votes 29 out of the 41

“Arlen Specter has proven that he is com­mit­ted to no prin­ci­ple or pol­icy more than the preser va­tion of his own po­lit­i­cal ca­reer,” said Nachama Solove­ichik, a spokes­woman for Pat Toomey, the Repub­li­can seek­ing to chal­lenge Mr. Specter in Novem­ber. Ms. Solove­ichik said Mr. Specter has “be­come a rub­ber stamp” for Democrats.

times he voted. Dur­ing 2006, when Repub­li­cans were still in power and Mr. Specter was one of them, he voted against most of his party on five of 18 con­tentious votes, in­clud­ing on im­mi­gra­tion, abor­tion and a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment defin­ing mar­riage.

Rep. Joe Ses­tak, the Penn­syl­va­nia Demo­crat who is chal­leng- ing Mr. Specter in their party pri­mary this year, ar­gues that Mr. Specter is toe­ing the Demo­cratic line only be­cause he’s fac­ing a chal­lenge within the party.

Jonathon Dworkin, a spokesman for Mr. Ses­tak, said that’s borne out by the switches Mr. Specter has made on high-pro­file is­sues.

“Sen. Specter has built his ca­reer on do­ing what it takes to save his job, whether it is switch­ing par­ties or switch­ing po­si­tions on the most im­por­tant is­sues — from health care re­form to the Em­ployee Free Choice Act and civil rights for the LGBT com­mu­nity,” Mr. Dworkin said.

From the right, for­mer Rep. Pat Toomey, the man whose chal­lenge in the Repub­li­can pri­mary chased Mr. Specter from the GOP, also says Mr. Specter’s votes are more about po­lit­i­cal preser­va­tion than prin­ci­ple.

“Arlen Specter has proven that he is com­mit­ted to no prin­ci­ple or pol­icy more than the preser­va­tion of his own po­lit­i­cal ca­reer,” said Nachama Solove­ichik, a spokes­woman for Pat Toomey, the Repub­li­can seek­ing to chal­lenge Mr. Specter in Novem­ber. Ms. Solove­ichik said Mr. Specter has “be­come a rub­ber stamp” for Democrats.

As for Mr. Brown, he says his votes on clo­ture don’t al­ways mean sup­port for Democrats’ agenda.

Two weeks ago, he voted with Democrats to be­gin de­bate on a bill to pro­long ben­e­fits to those who have been job­less the long­est, but later voted with all but one other Repub­li­can in de­mand­ing that strict bud­get rules be ap­plied. Sen. Ge­orge V. Voinovich, Ohio Repub­li­can, voted with Democrats, giv­ing them 60 votes to waive the bud­get rules and add the ex­tra spend­ing with­out find­ing off­set­ting cuts.

“I have pledged to do my best to change the tone in Washington, and my vote to con­tinue the de­bate rather than ob­struct it serves as a step in that di­rec­tion,” he said of his ini­tial vote to move the de­bate along.

On CBS’ “Face the Nation” pro­gram on April 18, he said he is pre­pared to join the other 40 Se­nate Repub­li­cans in fil­i­bus­ter­ing to stop the cur­rent ver­sion of the fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tion bill Democrats are push­ing.

The Mas­sachusetts Demo­cratic Party chair­man didn’t re­turn calls on Mr. Brown’s vot­ing pat­tern.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TO­GRAPHS

Sen. Scott Brown has sup­por ted Democrats on six of the nine fil­i­buster votes taken dur­ing his two-plus months in of­fice. “I have pledged to do my best to change the tone in Washington” Mr. Brown said. Sen. Arlen Specter has voted with fel­low Democrats...

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.