WASHINGTON (CNN) – In the wake of Arlen Specter's defection to the Democratic caucus, Republicans are primed for yet another round of soul-searching and intra-party sniping about the GOP's future. That debate might be best illustrated in South Carolina, where the state's two Republican senators are sharply split on how the party should move forward.
In one corner is Sen. Jim DeMint, perhaps the most conservative member of the upper chamber. In a speech to party activists last fall, DeMint became the first Republican to publicly blast John McCain after he lost the presidential election, accusing the Arizona senator of betraying core GOP principles in his quest for the White House.
In the other corner is Sen. Lindsey Graham, a McCain ally and party maverick who has angered conservatives in his own state and party by working with Democrats on issues like immigration reform. Few Republican insiders in South Carolina would descibe DeMint and Graham as close.
Appearing on CNN Tuesday, DeMint, a hero of the conservative grassroots, denied that his party has tilted too far to the right.
"I don't think many Americans are going to agree that the Republican party has become too conservative," he said. "If you look at our record of spending, our record on every issue, the problem I think we have is Americans no longer believe that we believe what we say we do."
DeMint says he isn't worried. He denied that the GOP has become a southern party, attributing Republican losses in the northeast to some northern voters who have left the region and moved south hoping to avoid labor unions and "forced unionization." He said Americans will eventually come back into the Republican fold because of growing alarm about the size of government and President Obama's fiscal policies.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Just hours after Sen. Arlen Specter announced his decision to change his party affiliation, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee called his action a "game-changer," using the switch in a fundraising pitch to supporters.
"This one's a game-changer," New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez said in the message. "Specter's move immediately improves the prospects of President Obama's bold change agenda. But make no mistake – Republicans still have the votes they need to mount a filibuster. Sen. Specter's decision will make our opponents even more desperate."
Specter's decision to leave the Republican Party could give Democrats a 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority if Democrat Al Franken is certified as the winner of Minnesota's Senate seat. In his e-mail, Menendez said Specter's actions will will make Republican Norm Coleman "dig in his heels and fight even harder" to prevent Franken from taking office.
Menendez also issued a warning to Democratic supporters that Republicans will "come after" Specter and other members of the party up for re-election in 2010.
"Even when Coleman finally, finally has no more appeals and is forced to concede defeat, the Republicans will be plotting day and night to defeat our candidates in 2010," said Menendez. "They know that beating just one Democratic incumbent would let them filibuster, delay, and deny the President's agenda."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Obama administration is revoking a Bush-era regulation that officials say "undermined" the 1973 Endangered Species Act.
The decision by the Commerce and Interior Departments means federal agencies will once again be required to consult with federal wildlife experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration before taking action that might affect threatened or endangered species. Environmental groups had argued the Bush rule severely weakened the Endangered Species Act.
"By rolling back this eleventh-hour regulation, we are ensuring that threatened and endangered species continue to receive the full protection of the law," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a written statement announcing the decision.
Last month, as part of the omnibus spending bill, Congress authorized the Commerce and Interior Departments to revoke the regulation.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Republicans give President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi some high marks in its 100 day "report card" that assesses the new administration - mockingly, of course.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm for the House GOP, issued a report card Tuesday claiming that the president and congressional Democrats have failed on "Taxes; Ending the Bailout Curve; and Culture of Corruption." Republicans also chastised Democrats by giving them "A's" for "Soaring Rhetoric" and the "Mounting National Debt" in its assessment released on Day 99 of the Obama presidency.
"The President has yet to prove he is capable of passing the Pelosi test," the NRCC writes in the "Teachers Comments" section of the faux report. "Signing off on reckless spending is not the solution to very problem."
Click here to see the NRCC's "Report Card"
UPDATE: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Crider responded Tuesday:
“While House Republicans celebrate saying ‘no’ to middle class tax cuts, children's health care, and infrastructure investments, President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Democrats are making progress on getting the economy back on track,” she said.
“Not only are Democrats and independents rejecting House Republicans obstructionist ideology, voters in NY-20 rejected it, people have increasingly rejected the Republican Party label, and today, even long time GOP Senator, Arlen Specter rejected it.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new national poll indicates that President Barack Obama's popularity is not rubbing off on fellow Democrats.
But the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, released on the eve of the President's 100th day in office, does suggest that Obama's party holds a strong advantage over the GOP.
The poll's release also comes on the day that Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a long time Republican, announced that he was switching his affiliation to the Democratic Party.
Fifty-one percent of people questioned in the survey said they have a favorable opinion of the Democrats. While that's down seven points from February, it's still 12 points higher than the 39 percent who said they have a positive opinion of the Republican Party. Fifty-five percent hold an unfavorable opinion about the GOP.
"Now that the Democrats have started to make the tough choices that a majority party always has to make, they are becoming less popular," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But the GOP has been unable to capitalize on that."
(CNN) - The conservative organization Club for Growth sharply criticized Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter for his decision to leave the Republican Party, calling the move a "cynical play for political survival."
The former chairman of the Club for Growth, Pat Toomey, has announced he is running for the GOP Senate nomination in Pennsylvania.
Full statement after the jump:
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Obama is asking Congress for $1.5 billion to fight the current swine flu outbreak.
In a letter to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the president made the request "at an abundance of caution," and said the funds should be "provided with maximum flexibility to allow us to address this emerging situation."
He also suggested the supplementing of anti-viral stockpiles, and assisting international efforts to stem the outbreak could be good uses of the funds. He added that his administration has "carefully been monitoring the situation, coordinating state and local responses, assessing the risk here in the United States and cooperating with international organizations and health officials around the globe."
Robert Gibbs, Obama's press secretary, read the letter to reporters at the beginning of Tuesday's White House press briefing.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Joe Torsella, the frontrunner for the Democratic Senate nomination in Pennsylvania, announced Tuesday that he will not step aside following the news that Republican Sen. Arlen Specter would run for re-election as a Democrat in 2010.
Specter, who is seeking a sixth term, announced earlier in the day he would switch his party affiliation to the Democratic Party. Torsella's decision to stay in the race means that Specter will face a Democratic primary in 2010.
"I decided to run for the United States Senate from Pennsylvania for one simple reason: I believe we need new leadership, new ideas, and new approaches in Washington," Torsella, the former head of the National Constitution Center, said in a statement sent to CNN. "It's become obvious that the old ways of doing business might have worked for the special interests, but they haven't worked for the rest of us.
"Nothing about today's news regarding Senator Specter changes that, or my intention to run for the Democratic nomination to the Senate in 2010 – an election that is still a full year away."
Torsella is vowing to move forward, but some top Pennsylvania Democrats say that once he senses the extent of the support Specter will receive from the party, the field is likely to clear for the incumbent.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Olympia Snowe - one of the three moderate Republicans including Arlen Specter who supported President Obama's stimulus package - told CNN Tuesday that she has also been approached many times about becoming a Democrat, but that it hasn't happened for a while.
"I've been asked, but not recently," she said.
Snowe said the Republican Party never learned its lesson from the "painful" party switch of Sen. Jim Jeffords in 2001.
"For me personally and then for the party, its devastating," Snowe said of Specter's move. "I've always been concerned about the Republican party nationally, about their exclusionary policies towards moderate Republicans. That's not a secretly held view on my part."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – When was the last time there was a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate?
It was during the 95th Congress in 1977-1979, when Democrats controlled 62 seats.
The Senate's filibuster rule had just changed two years earlier in 1975, when the threshold was lowered from a two-thirds majority of senators present and voting to a flat 60 votes. At the time of the rule change, the Democratic caucus had 61 votes.
With the switch by Sen. Arlen Specter, Democrats still need one more vote to reach 60. Al Franken of Minnesota could be that 60th vote if he prevails in the drawn-out battle for the title of the state's junior senator. A three-judge panel in the state court recently ruled against Republican Norm Coleman in his post-election contest over the tight race, and Coleman recently announced that he is taking his case to the state supreme court.
Don Ritchie of the U.S. Senate Historical Office notes that the concept of party unity is much different now than it was in the 1970s. During the 95th Congress, even though Democrats held a filibuster-proof majority, straight party-line votes were very rare, and filibusters still occurred, comprised of coalitions between Democrats and Republicans. Ritchie notes that, at the time, cloture motions to end filibusters often were brought forth jointly by both the leadership of both parties.