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Been Arlen Spectered but Not Resurrected

photo credit: momboleumArlen Specter (DRD-Pa.) is born again. But unlike most converts, he’s not exactly zealous about his new religion.

In the same breath that he announced his switch to the Democratic Party last week, Specter was quick to assert his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. The legislation, which would level the playing field for workers seeking to form unions, depends upon 60 votes for cloture in the Senate (that is, we need 60 senators to agree to let the bill come to a vote).

Specter, who voted for cloture for the Employee Free Choice Act when it was introduced in the Senate in 2007, changed his mind a couple months ago (no, not going there—too easy) and announced he wouldn’t vote for cloture this time around. And by gum, even becoming a Democrat—that is, one who ostensibly supports working families—doesn’t make a difference for the man on whom all eyes turn.

"I said when I made the switch, I’m still against that bill," Specter said Sunday on NBC’s "Meet the Press." "Democrats are all for it; Republicans are all against it, and I’m the critical vote."

So, here’s what we say. In an interview with ABC, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka put it this way:

If a candidate isn’t good for workers, we won’t be there. If they are good for workers, we will be there regardless of their party. I mean, we supported Arlen Specter—and he was a Republican—because he was good for what was happening. He was good for our members at that time.

See, you can’t be a Dem in name only. You have to actually vote like one. Perhaps a Dem like Blue America-backed Rep. Joe Sestak (Pa.), who’s thinking of throwing his hat into the Pennsylvania Senate primary and who—get this—is a House co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act. It would be hard to go head to head with Sestak, a three-star Navy admiral with a doctorate in political economy and government from Harvard. But then, it’s up to Pennsylvania voters to decide.

"Those decisions will be made by people in the state, and our members in the state know who will stand with them. And if Arlen Specter—he stood with them in the past—if he continues to stand with them, they’ll support him. If he doesn’t, they won’t support him"….

Specter was all over the place this past week—backing Minnesota Republican Norm Coleman over Democrat Al Franken—then not—voting against President Obama’s budget and opposing a public option in health care reform legislation.

But he scrapped a scheduled appearance last night on CNN’s Larry King show and has made himself "extremely scarce" since Tuesday night’s vote stripping him of seniority rights in Senate committees.

Maybe he’s taking time to think about what it means to be a Democrat.

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Tula Connell

Tula Connell