Sen. Arlen Specter's decision to switch allegiances to the Democratic party could have far-reaching implications for business and the financial markets.

Should Al Franken succeed in his bid for a Senate seat in Minnesota, Specter's shift would allow Democrats to amass a filibuster-proof 60-member majority.

Among the many policy initiatives proposed by the Obama administration that a newly calibrated senate could help press forward are: an overhaul of the healthcare system, stiffer banking regulations, a cap-and-trade plan designed to curtail carbon emissions and a new labor bill. Each of these could potentially impact a range of sectors and industries, from HMOs and drug makers to banking to alternative-energy and old-line manufacturing.

Specter said he felt the GOP had strayed too far to the right since he was first elected to office in 1980. "I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans," Specter said in a prepared statement.

He pointed to this year's stimulus package, which virtually all Senate Republicans voted against, as one of the key motivations behind his decision. "It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable."
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