House Dem blames leaders for party switch
By JOSH KRAUSHAAR
Updated: 12/22/09 4:19 PM EST
Democratic Rep. Parker Griffith announced Tuesday that he’s switching parties – saying he can no longer align himself “with a party that continues to pursue legislation that is bad for our country, hurts our economy and drives us further and further into debt.”
“Unfortunately there are those in the Democratic Leadership that continue to push an agenda focused on massive new spending, tax increases, bailouts and a health care bill that is bad for our healthcare system,” Griffith said in a statement. “I have always considered myself to be an independent voice and I have tried to be that voice in Congress – but after watching this agenda firsthand I now believe that the differences in the two parties could not be more clear and that for me to be true to my core beliefs and values I must align myself with the Republican party and speak out clearly on these issues.
Griffith’s party switch comes on the eve of a pivotal congressional health care vote and will send a jolt through a Democratic House Caucus that has already been unnerved by the recent retirements of a handful of members who, like Griffith, hail from districts that offer prime pickup opportunities for the GOP in 2010.
The switch represents a coup for the House Republican leadership, which had been courting Griffith since he publicly criticized the Democratic leadership in the wake of raucous town halls during the summer.
Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House, hailed Griffith’s move from a large majority to a small minority as proof that the Democrats have become “completely disconnected from seniors, young workers and and families in America.”
Liberals countered that Griffith was essentially a Republican all along, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said he should give back the money Democrats have contributed to his campaign.
“House Democratic members and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took Parker Griffith at his word and, as a result, invested a great deal in working with Alabamans to bring Mr. Griffith to Congress,” he said in a statement. “Mr. Griffith, failing to honor our commitment to him, has a duty and responsibility to return to Democratic Members and the DCCC the financial resources that were invested in him. His constituents will hold him accountable for failing to keep his commitments.”
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