(CNN) - With his defection to the Democratic Party, Arlen Specter becomes the 13th U.S. senator to switch parties since the direct election of U.S. senators began in 1913.
Recent senators who have switched parties are:
Richard Shelby of Alabama
Democrat, 1987-1994; Republican, 1994-present
* Shelby left the Democratic party to join the Republicans on November 9, 1994, just after 1994 midterm elections that gave Republicans control of both chambers of Congress.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado
Democrat, 1993-1995; Republican, 1995-2005
* Campbell left the Democratic party on March 3, 1995, to join the Republicans.
Bob Smith of New Hampshire
Republican1990-July 13, 1999; Independent, July 13, 1999 to November 1, 1999; Republican, November 1999 – 2003
* Smith left the Republican party on July 13, 1999, to become an independent. On November 1, 1999, he switched back to the Republican Party, noting that he had never officially switched parties because his voter registration in New Hampshire remained unchanged.
Jim Jeffords of Vermont
Republican, 1989-2001; Independent, 2001-2007
* Jeffords announced on May 24, 2001, that he would leave the Republican Party on June 6, 2001, to become an independent who would caucus with Democrats. His switch gave Democrats control of the Senate, though Republicans would reclaim the chamber after the 2002 midterm elections.
Joe Lieberman of Connecticut
Democrat, 1989-2006; Independent, 2006-present
* Lieberman lost his state's Democratic primary in August 2006, but won re-election in November as an independent, though he had not officially changed his voter registration. In the Senate, he continues to caucus with the Democrats.
Source: U.S. Senate Historical Office
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas told CNN he is "stunned" by the news that Arlen Specter is switching parties.
Walking into emergency meeting of GOP Senators, Brownback stopped to read his BlackBerry and his mouth dropped.
"Arlen's his own man, but it's not good," he said.
"I'm just stunned, just heard about it here," Brownback said, motioning to his BlackBerry. "I'm very surprised. I had no idea it was coming."
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The first President Obama heard of Arlen Specter's party switch was at 10:25 am Tuesday in the Oval Office when he was handed a note by a staffer, according to a senior administration official.
The official told CNN Obama was in the middle of his daily economic briefing and was given a note that said simply, "Specter is announcing he's switching parties."
A few minutes later after his meeting wrapped up, the official said, Obama called Specter and said, "You have my full support, and we're thrilled to have you" in the Democratic Party.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Veteran Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter intends to switch from the Republican to the Democratic party Tuesday, multiple sources tell CNN.
A Specter party switch would give Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate majority of 60 seats if Al Franken holds his current lead in the disputed Minnesota Senate race.
Specter, a five-term Senate veteran, was expected to face a very tough primary challenge next year from former Rep. Pat Toomey, who nearly defeated Specter in the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary in 2004.
A Quinnipiac University survey of registered Pennsylvania voters released last month showed Specter trailing the more conservative Toomey in a hypothetical primary matchup, 41 to 27 percent.
A separate Franklin & Marshall survey showed Specter leading Toomey 33 to 18 percent. Another 42 percent, however, were undecided.
Over half of the Republicans polled in the Franklin & Marshall survey said they would prefer to see someone new in the Senate.
Numerous Republicans are very angry with Specter over his recent vote in support of President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus plan.
Specter, one of only three GOP senators to vote for the measure, has been part of a dwindling group of GOP moderates from the northeastern part of the country.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that federal regulators have the authority to clamp down on broadcast TV networks that air isolated cases of profanity, known as "fleeting expletives."
The 5-4 vote was a victory for Bush-era officials who pushed fines and sanctions when racy images and language reached the airwaves.
Controversial words have been aired in scripted and unscripted instances on all the major over-the-air networks in the past six years - dating back to when the Federal Communications Commission began considering a stronger, no-tolerance policy.
"It suffices the new policy is permissible under the statute, there are good reasons for it, and the agency believes it to be better," said Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the conservative majority.
The high court, however, refused to decide whether the commission's policy violates the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. It ruled only on the agency's enforcement power. The justices ordered the free-speech aspect to be reviewed again by a federal appeals court.
(CNN) – A former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush is slamming the decision by an Obama White House official to use lower Manhattan as the location for a low-flying presidential plane photo-op.
Francis Townsend, a CNN security contributor, called the fly-over "crass insensitivity" Tuesday on CNN's American Morning. "And, frankly, as I would say as a former prosecutor, I would call this felony stupidity," the lawyer and former Bush homeland security adviser added.
Townsend also suggested that Louis Caldera, the Director of the White House Military Office, may not be fit to continue serving in the Obama administration.
"What makes this almost more disturbing is the fact that that's the office responsible for the movement of the president and his staff in a time of emergency," Townsend told Kiran Chetry. "So, of course, the most important thing is that the person leading it has good judgment. . . . at its best this is bad judgment. This is probably not the right job for Mr. Caldera to be in if he didn't understand the likely reaction of New Yorkers."
"This was not necessary," Townsend added. "If you needed pictures of Air Force One over a national icon, fly it over the Grand Canyon. But flying it over lower Manhattan, which to many of us is a sacred ground now where we lost thousands of Americans, I just think it wrong."
Caldera issued a statement Monday evening regarding the fly-over. "[I]t's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption," he said. "I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused."
President Obama was reportedly furious after learning that a plane in his fleet was flown over the same vicinity as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also criticized the flight and said had he known of the White House's plan, he would have asked that the flight not take place.
UPDATED 11:33 a.m.: President Obama said Tuesday the fly-over incident "was a mistake." "It will not happen again," the president also said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama Tuesday said Monday's low flyover of a Boeing 747 above the New York City skyline, which frightened workers and residents into evacuating buildings, had been a "mistake."
"It was a mistake," he told reporters. "It was something we found out about along with all of you. And it will not happen again."
The huge aircraft, which functions as Air Force One when the president is aboard, was taking part in a classified, government-sanctioned photo shoot, the Federal Aviation Administration told CNN.
"Last week, I approved a mission over New York. I take responsibility for that decision," said Louis Caldera, director of the White House Military Office. "While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it's clear that the mission created confusion and disruption."
Witnesses reported seeing the plane circle over the Upper New York Bay near the Statue of Liberty before flying up the Hudson River. It was accompanied by two F-16s.
(CNN) - The Obama administration is up against its first public health outbreak without a secretary of health and human services, but that could change with a Senate vote expected as early as Tuesday on the confirmation of Kathleen Sebelius.
If confirmed, Sebelius would take office as swine flu numbers climb worldwide. As of Tuesday morning, at least 90 cases have been confirmed, including 50 in the United States.
The White House, which declared a public health emergency Sunday, has insisted that it is equipped to handle the situation.
"I think this notion somehow that if there's not currently a secretary, that there's not the function that needs to take place in order to prepare for either this or any other situation is just simply not the case," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.
(CNN) – Fox Broadcasting Company announced Monday it will not carry President Barack Obama's prime time press conference marking his first 100 days in office, the first time a broadcast network has refused an Obama administration request for that valuable airtime.
The network will instead carry its regularly scheduled episode "Lie to Me," according to its Web site. The show is among the network's most popular and draws an average of 13 million viewers a week. That compares to the relatively paltry 4.2 million who watched the president's last prime-time press conference on Fox. In all, close to 40 million watched that event on one of the eight networks that carried it.
Obama's press conference also comes at the start of the May "sweeps" period, when viewership is watched closely to set the rate networks can charge for advertising.
In a statement to the Hollywood Reporter, the network said it will alert viewers just ahead of the 8 pm ET event that the press conference will be broadcast on sister stations Fox News and Fox Business Channel.
CBS, NBC, and ABC have said they will pre-empt their regularly scheduled programs to air the president's news conference.
The Wednesday night event will be Obama's third prime-time press conference as president. His prime-time address to Congress in February was also carried by all four major broadcast networks.
The White House is not commenting on Fox's decision.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – A former Republican National Committee chairman and a prominent GOP pollster are leading a new organization that will promote conservative principles and try to counter the Democratic controlled White House and Congress on economic and national security matters.
The organization, Resurgent Republic, will be comprised of GOP strategists, academics, former congressmen. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour,former RNC chair and senior advisor to President G.W. Bush Ed Gillespie, and GOP strategist Whit Ayres co-founded the organization.
"Our nation is at an historical junction and the actions we take today with regards to promoting free market principles will have an impact for a generation or more," Gillespie said in a statement sent to CNN. "Resurgent Republic will serve as a strategic resource for the general public, policy makers and Congressional leaders."
The organization emphasized that it would help "promote market-oriented policies, lower taxes and economic growth, and strong national security policies." On Wednesday, Resurgent Republic said it will release a report on President Obama's budget.
(Full list of Resurgent Republic's advisory board after the jump)