Women's Liberation, Senate GOP Style
Arlen Specter's abandonment of the Republican Party should make it easier for three female GOP senators to make tough decisions. When the Senate Republicans had just enough senators to filibuster any Democratic piece of legislation, there was a strong sense of pressure to remain united. Now the Republican senators can't stop a united Democratic Caucus. There is no longer a practical reason for the GOP to form a fully united opposition.
The Senate Republicans will soon be feeling the freedom of irrelevancy. This new-found freedom should make life easier (although maybe not more enjoyable) for Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Kay Bailey Hutchison. Senator Collins and Snowe are now the two remaining moderate Republican senators. Since the Republicans no longer have the numbers to maintain a filibuster, they should dramatically ratchet down their pressure on these two to toe the party line. Collins and Snowe should be able to vote based on their conscience instead party considerations.
Senator Hutchison is not a moderate, but Specter's defection should give her greater freedom of action. Hutchison has been considering a run against Texas Governor Rick Perry. She would need to resign from the Senate to dedicate her time to a state-wide campaign. If she resigns there is a small but real possibility that a Democrat could win her seat in a special election. There was an argument that she should not give the Democrats a chance at getting to 60 in the Senate. Since the Democrats will now get 60 anyway, there is little reason for Hutchinson not to run.