Parker Griffith, Democratic Representative, Switches Parties to GOP

(AP)
Updated 3:10 p.m. ET

Rep. Parker Griffith, a freshman Democrat from Alabama, announced Tuesday that he is switching parties to become a Republican.

"I believe our nation is at a crossroads and I can no longer align myself 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," Griffith, 67, said at a press conference at his home, according to the Associated Press.

Some aren't surprised by Griffith's switch. He has voted against all major Democratic initiatives this year, including the stimulus, cap and trade and health care bills.

He's also spoken out against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, saying that he would not vote for her to be speaker again.

Politico, which first reported the story, notes that although Griffith's northern Alabama district has never elected a Republican for Congress, Republican Sen. John McCain won the district with 61 percent of the vote in last year's presidential election. The district includes Huntsville.

Griffith won the seat last year by a three-point margin over Republican Wayne Parker. He replaced the retiring Rep. Bud Cramer, who had also been discussed as a possible party-switcher.

A radiation oncologist, Griffith cited the Democrats' health care plans as a reason for his switch. He was one of 39 Democrats to vote against the bill in the House last month.

"I want to make it perfectly clear that this bill is bad for our doctors," he said at the press conference, according to the AP. "It's bad for our patients. It's bad for the young men and women who are considering going into the health care field."

The success of Republicans in the off-year elections last month also appears to be a reason for his decision to switch parties. Griffith told Politico then that he wanted to be called an independent Blue Dog, not a Democrat. "I should be nervous," he added.

As CBS News Capitol Hill producer Jill Jackson notes, however, it should also be remembered that Griffith's switch will not significantly alter the balance of power in the House chamber: Democrats will now have 257 members and the Republicans will have 176.

In response to the announcement, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen of Maryland called for Griffith to return money given to him from Democrats.

"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," Van Hollen 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."

On the flip side, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio and Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia issued statements welcoming Griffith to their caucus. They said his switch was a sign of momentum against the Democrats' agenda in Congress.

"When a Member of Congress decides to leave a 258 seat majority to join a deep minority, it is a sure sign that the majority party has become completely disconnected from seniors, young workers, and families in America," Cantor said in a statement. "We welcome Parker Griffith to the Republican Conference, and will continue to stand and fight against the damaging agenda of this Administration working in tandem with the Pelosi/Reid run Congress."

"Parker Griffith is a dedicated public servant who has consistently put the best interests of his constituents first, and it is in that spirit that Republicans welcome him," Boehner added. "With today's decision, Congressman Griffith has added his voice to the growing chorus of Americans who have had it with Democrats' wrong-headed policies and lack of leadership."

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