The decision by Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter to change parties from the GOP to the Democrats bodes well for immigration reform, especially if the move provides a filibuster proof majority on the Democratic bill in the senate.
Specter was cut out of the last attempt at immigration reform by staffers from Senator Edward Kennedy’s office who had chafed under Republican control of the Senate for many years.
They took revenge when they came back into power and Kennedy headed the immigration subcommittee on the Judiciary. Specter and his staff were essentially ignored as Kennedy worked most of the bill himself, aided by Senator John McCain’s staff.
That proved a major mistake when the final dealing began behind closed doors. The Kennedy/McCain bill was in the final stages but Specter, a moderate, was outside the key group and unable to impact moderate Republican colleagues.
Specter has a great reputation for an outstanding staff on the issue, and no doubt he will work closely with New York Senator Charles Schumer, who likely played a huge role in having him join the Democratic caucus.
For Schumer, the Specter defection is the latest in a string of victories in terms of expanding Democratic control in the senate. The New York senator may lack the world profile of Hillary Clinton and others, but when it comes to Senate politics he is quickly emerging as the greatest dealmaker since Lyndon Johnson before he left the senate to become John F. Kennedy’s running mate.