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News Summary by Harry Hunter

U.S. Representative for Alabama, Parker Griffith.

(Dec. 25, 2009) — On Tuesday  U.S. Representative for Alabama, Parker Griffith switched from Democrat to Republican because “I can no longer align myself with a party that continues to pursue legislation that is bad for our country,” Reuters reported.

Democrats seemed to downplay Griffith’s switch while Republican leaders made a point of welcoming Griffith into the GOP fold. According to the Reuters report, “A Democratic leadership aide said the defection was not a major surprise since Griffith routinely voted with Republicans,” whereas House Republican leader John Boehner claimed that ”Congressman Griffith has added his voice to the growing chorus of Americans who have had it with Democrats’ wrong-headed policies.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell pointed out that Griffith, unlike most party switchers over the years, went from the majority to minority party in Congress. “That’s growing evidence of the unacceptability of this national Democratic agenda in much of red state (conservative) America,” McConnell said. (Reuters)

Whether there is political advantage for Griffith in his switch is an open question, but his decision seems to be one of conscience rather than political calculus. According to an article by Politico’s Josh Kraushaar, Griffith’s action is based on the contrast between his beliefs and the Democrats’ agenda: “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.”

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.”

According to Politico, Griffith, who captured his seat in a close 2008 open seat contest, will become the first Republican to hold the historically Democratic, Huntsville-based district. A radiation oncologist who founded a cancer treatment center, Griffith cited the Democratic health care bill as a major reason for his switch.

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