Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) announced today that he is switching parties and will run for re-election as a Democrat in 2010, drastically altering the balance of power in the Senate. Specter has been a Republican for more than 40 years. His switch would make him the Democrats’ 60th vote in the Senate if Democrat Al Franken is seated (Franken is still in the midst of a legal recount battle in Minnesota). Specter’s switch comes as he faced an increasingly unfavorable electoral environment in Pennsylvania.
Senator Specter is currently the Ranking Member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, and has long been an advocate for increased funding for health research through NIH. It is unclear at this point how his switch will affect his committee assignments but he is sure to have an even larger role in determining funding levels for federal health and education programs.
Read Senator Specter’s statement here.