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John Cornyn: What the Specter Switch Means

Senator John Cornyn of Texas wrote these observations on the significance of Arlen Specter’s defection for Power Line:

During the last 24 hours, much has been written about U.S. Senator Arlen Specter’s (D-PA) defection to the Democrat Party. Unsurprisingly, the Washington media have cast Specter’s announcement as a devastating blow to the Republican Party, and are predicting doom and gloom for us in the months and years ahead.

Senator Specter’s decision indeed carries important ramifications, but there is another side to this story that has been largely ignored by the Beltway pundits.

First, his departure likely spares Republicans from spending valuable resources in what would have been an expensive and divisive Republican primary – a primary battle that Specter appeared extremely unlikely to win. Indeed, Specter cited recent polls showing him trailing former U.S. Representative Pat Toomey (R-PA) by more than 20 points as his main reason to bolt the Party.

Second, in the unfortunate and unlikely event that Senator Norm Coleman loses his legal battle in Minnesota, Harry Reid will now have his long-coveted 60-seat, filibuster-proof supermajority in the United States Senate. With Nancy Pelosi firmly in control of the U.S. House of Representatives and President Obama just 100 days into his administration, Republicans will have lost the ability to meaningfully impact legislation in any way.

The Democrats will be able to pass their left-wing agenda completely unchecked, and if they intend to fulfill their campaign promises, the American people can look forward to higher taxes, socialized medicine, record deficits and the loss of secret ballots for our workers.

While this would unquestionably damage our country’s interests in the short-term, the complete absence of any checks and balances in Washington could have a significant impact on next year’s midterm elections.

Democrats would own everything that happens in our government. They will be unable to cast the GOP as “obstructionists” who are blocking Obama’s agenda, robbing them of one of their oft-repeated political attacks.

A recent Public Opinion Strategies poll indicates that voters, by an overwhelming margin of 22 points, would prefer candidates in 2010 that would be a “check and balance” to President Obama over candidates “who will help Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress” pass their agenda.

America’s founders designed a government based upon checks and balances specifically to prevent a majority faction from imposing its unchecked will on the minority. American voters have traditionally acted to preserve this check and balance system, and accountability in Washington, by refusing to entrust one political party with total control of government. Nothing suggests that 2010 will be any different.

During the first 100 days of the Obama administration, we have seen record amounts of government spending, Cabinet nominees who didn’t pay their taxes and “stimulus” bills laden with pork-barrel spending. For more examples of Democrat missteps during this time, see our new web ad released today:

The idea of Democrats in complete control of Washington without the threat of a Senate filibuster is enough to make most Americans shudder. This is a message our Senate candidates will carry across our great country as we work to rebuild the Republican Party in November 2010.

While Senator Specter’s decision was indeed disappointing, it did allow us to realize – perhaps sooner than we would have liked – the dangerous ramifications of unbridled, one-party rule in Washington. Come November 2010, this may ultimately be viewed as a positive development in the Republican Party’s climb back to power.

Senator Cornyn is Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

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