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« Before Taking Questions, Obama Takes Questions | Blog Home Page | Obama: Budget Plan Attacks Economic Crisis On "All Fronts" »

Specter Announces Opposition to 'Card Check'

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) announced from the Senate floor today his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. His might have been the 60th and deciding vote for cloture, allowing the labor-backed bill to move forward this year for a potential vote. Instead, his decision could kill it.

"I have made up my mind," Specter said from the Senate floor.

Specter's decision to vote against cloture was first reported today by CongressDaily. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, also broke the news today during a luncheon at a labor-issues conference.

Specter noted the slim margin on this bill, and compared it to 2007 when he was the lone Republican to favor cloture on similar legislation. Even if Specter joined Democrats again this time, however, the bill was not assured of progressing. A few Democrats, such as Arkansas Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, that voted in favor of cloture two years ago have not committed to doing so this time.

Up for re-election next year, many viewed Specter's decision to be at least partially based on politics. Democrats have won the state in the last five presidential elections, including President Obama's 11-point victory in November. In 2006, Sen. Bob Casey (D) knocked out incumbent Republican Rick Santorum by more than 17 points.

On the other side, Specter narrowly escaped primary defeat in 2004, holding off Republican challenger Pat Toomey by just 1.6 points. Toomey, a former three-term congressman who now leads the anti-tax Club for Growth, is currently gearing up to challenge Specter once again.

"This announcement should end the rumor mill that I have made some deal for political advantage," Specter said. "I have not traded my vote in the past, and I will not do so now."

Toomey, however, released a statement following Specter's announcement saying just the opposite. "The difference between Specter's vote on the big government stimulus bill and Specter's vote on card check: a threat in the Republican primary," Toomey said.

Specter and other moderate Republicans have been in this position before, including during debate on the economic stimulus bill, which three Republicans -- Specter and Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe -- supported. Specter noted the pressure that this puts on centrist members.

"In a highly polarized Senate, many decisive votes are left to a small group who are willing to listen, reject ideological dogmatism, disagree with the party line and make an independent judgment," Specter said. "It is an anguishing position, but we play the cards we are dealt."