HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A U.S. House Democrat who opposes the health care overhaul announced Tuesday that he is defecting to the GOP.
Rep. Parker Griffith, speaking to reporters at his home in northern Alabama, said: "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 was one of 39 House Democrats to vote against a version of the health care bill that narrowly passed.
The 67-year-old oncologist was narrowly elected last year in a district that includes Huntsville and Decatur. President Barack Obama lost badly there to Republican John McCain.
Griffith said that his defection had nothing to do with concerns about winning re-election as a Democrat and that he had not talked to any fellow Democrats about switching parties with him.
During the 2008 election, Alabama Democrats defended Griffith against GOP claims that he was soft on terrorism, and Joe Turnham, chairman of the state party, said Tuesday he is disappointed by Griffith's defection. "He narrowly became a congressman through the hard work, votes and financial contributions of thousands of Democrats. Today, they feel betrayed," said Turnham.
Democrats will hold 257 House seats to the GOP's 178 after Griffith's switch.