Obama to Specter: "Thrilled to have you"

The president calls the newest Democratic senator to welcome him to the party.

Published April 28, 2009 4:55PM (EDT)

Sen. Arlen Specter's announcement that he's switching parties came from so far out in left field that even President Obama didn't hear definitive word about it until about 10 a.m. Tuesday.

A White House aide tells Salon that at 10:25 a.m., while he was Oval Office receiving the Economic Daily Briefing, the president was handed a note that said, “Specter is announcing he is changing parties.” Seven minutes later, Obama was on the phone with the Pennsylvania senator, telling him, "You have my full support” and that Democrats are “thrilled to have you.” The aide had no word on whether anyone in the administration had participated in talks that enticed Specter across the aisle.

Separately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has issued his own statement welcoming Specter to the party. "Senator Specter and I have had a long dialogue about his place in an evolving Republican Party. We have not always agreed on every issue, but Senator Specter has shown a willingness to work in a bipartisan manner, put people over party, and do what is right for Pennsylvanians and all Americans," Reid said. "I welcome Senator Specter and his moderate voice to our diverse caucus, and to continuing our open and honest debate about the best way to make life better for the American people.”

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Arlen Specter D-pa. Harry Reid