Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today made the following remarks after receiving news that Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) intends to change his party affiliation and align himself with Senate Democrats. Durbin has served with Specter on both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"For some time now, many of us in the Senate have approached Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and asked him to consider joining the Democratic caucus. He has always been an independent - a moderate Republican - and we know that on many key issues he has shown extraordinary leadership.
"His key vote in favor of President Obama's Recovery Act showed a lot of political courage, and made him a target of much criticism from many in the Republican Party. Senator Specter and I have worked together on many issues over the years - most recently, he's been my cosponsor on an important campaign financing reform bill that we hope will help bring a higher ethical standard to Washington.
"Senator Specter couldn't have chosen a more important time to join us. President Obama is working with our caucus and all of the Congress to try to pass critically important and historic legislation to reform our health care system, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, address global warming and provide our children with a 21st Century education. Arlen Specter's vote is going to be essential for us to achieve this agenda. We welcome him to the Democratic caucus, and look forward to working with him."