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Oh, My D-Arlen.

Okay, so, let me get this straight: Arlen Specter switches from Republican to Democrat in a blatant act of voter-shopping (“I’m not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate”) to prevent his ass from being kicked by Club For Growth wingnut Pat Toomey.

Specter then promises to continue voting like a Republican, and singles out EFCA as a Democratic priority that he will continue to oppose:

My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.

Specter’s self-serving move only gives the Democrats the illusion of 60 votes (assuming Franken gets seated before he dies of old age), so how do the Democrats play it? Do they recognize that Specter needs them more than they need him? Do they give him a motivation to change his mind, at least on cloture? Uh, not so much…

I asked Reid spokesperson Jim Manley if Reid would support Specter in the primary if his EFCA position remained what it is today. “Senator Reid is going to support Senator Specter in the primary,” Manley replied.

Brilliant. And my sleazy machine pol governor goes him one better, Torsella and Sestak notwithstanding:

Asked if Specter could win a Dem primary, Rendell said: “He’d be unopposed. The Democrats in the Senate would welcome him. We in Pennsylvania would welcome him. He’d be basically unopposed for the Democratic nomination.”

Oh, and Harry also promises to let Arlen keep his seniority, instantly making him the 8th-ranking Senator in the Democratic caucus. Well played!

As Chris Bowers puts it:

So, we not only get no new votes, but we lose the ability to challenge those votes. Apart from the image of total Republican fail, this isn’t a good thing at all. Not only do we have to deal with Specter’s voting record, which is worse than any other Democrat in the entire Senate, but we are denied the opportunity to even challenge him.

Well, technically, Specter would have had to survive the Republican primary before we could have challenged him, but yes, we lose an excellent chance to put an actual Democrat in that seat.

This all might not be too awful if it turns out that D-Arlen’s not an evil guy so much as a spineless coward who suppressed his better impulses for fear of primary opponents or lost committee assignments, as some people seem to think. But that strikes me as a triumph of hope over paying attention.

So, can anyone tell me what the Democrats gain by adding a feckless wanker like Specter to their team? What will become legislatively possible that wasn’t possible before? Because to me it looks like the Democrats just richly rewarded D-Arlen for doing nothing more than saving his own ass, and asked for nothing in return. I haven’t seen a move this clueless and lame since, well, a few months ago.

UPDATE: D-Arlen is opposed to Dawn Johnsen too. But he’s a "loyal Democrat"!

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