Over in the States, the Senate Democrats are currently three members short of 60, a magic number which means they can end filibusters and drive through legislation the Republicans are really unhappy with.
With the elections long over, most have assumed that’s that for the Democrats chances of getting to supermajority. We thought it possible, but unlikely, back last November.
Yet things still seem to be going their way. Firstly there’s an independent member who caucuses with the Democrats: 58. The 59th member is Al Franken, a senatorial candidate for the Democrats in Minnesota who should have won ages ago but is having to fight court battles to hold onto his seat. The latest is that the Minnesotan courts have declared him the winner, but his opponent Norm Coleman still has the right to an appeal and then to appeal further to federal courts. Talk about a sore loser.
But finally this week the 60th Democratic senator emerged in the form of defecting Republican senator Arlen Spector, who has crossed the floor in opposition to just how right-wing the Republicans have become recently. Claiming he is following the trend set by 200,000 Republicans in his home state of Pennsylvania, Spector says his philosophy is now more in line with the Democrats.
As the NY Times reports:
Democrats were jubilant about the development.
President Obama was handed a note from an aide at 10:25 a.m. on Tuesday during his daily economic briefing. The note, according to a senior administration official, said: “Specter is announcing he is changing parties.”
Seven minutes later, Mr. Obama reached Mr. Specter by telephone. In a brief conversation, the president said: “You have my full support,” according to the official who heard the phone call. The president added that we are “thrilled to have you.”
Last time we discussed this on’t Voice, a deal of discussion ensued about the value of strong government. Should the Democrats get the awesome power of a filibuster-proof senate? Or is their greater value in having to work for consensus?