Senate Democrats said that a surprise move by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) to switch parties would aid their efforts to overhaul the fractured U.S. healthcare system.
It helps, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said. It helps. Specter said that his political philosophy (is) more in line with Democrats than Republicans, according to the Associated Press. The move gives Democrats 59 seats in the Senate, with a 60thAl Franken of Minnesotapossible, pending the outcome of that disputed race with Republican Norm Coleman. The 60-vote threshold is significant because it takes that many senators to break a filibuster. Specter, however, said that he would maintain his independence, adding that he would not be an automatic 60th vote.
In recent weeks, Spectera cancer survivorhas called for changes in the way the healthcare system treats patients who are near the end of their lives, as well as improvements in emergency care. He also secured additional funding for cancer research. Specter said that he would continue to oppose so-called card check legislation, opposed by the hospital lobby, which would make it easier for employees to unionize.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Finance Committee and a longtime champion of health reform, called the move transformative and game-changing.