Specter becomes Democrat, but still opposes card check

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Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA)
Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA)
Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, one of the most visible opponents the Employee Free Choice Act, has announced he will be leaving the Republican Party to caucus with the Democrats. But don't expect a change of opinion toward the card-check bill, he says.

Specter made his declaration Tuesday morning, setting off a political firestorm in the nation's capital, as the move comes with some significant political ramifications. Specter will become the 59th senator to caucus with the Democrats. In another twist, if Minnesota seats Al Franken as a senator, the Democrats will have a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Democrats relish this thought, since it could mean easier passage for many hot-button issues, such as healthcare reform, potential Supreme Court appointments and the Employee Free Choice Act.  In his statement to the public, however, Specter warned that he would remain independent.

"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," according to his statement. "I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (card check) will not change."

Nursing homes oppose the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to form. The legislation would legitimize a union if a majority of workers sign cards. Currently, a secret ballot election process administered under the National Labor Relations Board must take place for workers to unionize.