Image: Griffith sign
Harry Hamburg  /  AP
Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, a freshman, is switching to the Republican Party.
By
NBC News
updated 12/22/2009 2:44:30 PM ET 2009-12-22T19:44:30

A Democratic House member who has opposed several of President Barack Obama's top domestic agenda items is switching to the Republican Party.

Rep. Parker Griffith of Alabama, who hails from a heavily conservative congressional district, announced Tuesday that he will join the GOP.

"I have become increasingly concerned that the bills and policies pushed by the current Democratic leadership are not good for north Alabama or our nation," he said during a press conference to announce the switch.  "More importantly, they do not represent my values and convictions."

After being narrowly elected in 2008, Griffith voted against the Obama-backed economic stimulus package in February, and he opposed the House version of health care reform legislation.

He was one of only four Democrats who voted against each of three of Obama's top legislative priorities in 2009: health reform, the stimulus, and cap-and-trade energy legislation.

"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 futher into debt," Griffith said.

Before Parker's defection, Democrats held a 258-177 majority in the House. Griffith's move would reduce that advantage by one seat.

The lawmaker's intention to switch parties was first reported by POLITICO.

Earlier this year, Griffith announced that he would vote for the challenger, whomever that may be, against Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in her re-election bid for House Speaker in the next Congress if Democrats maintain their majority.

National Republican Conference Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, praised Griffith in a statement, saying that the Alabama lawmaker's decision is "emblematic" of Americans' uneasiness with the Democratic Party's agenda.

Democrats said Tuesday that they are not surprised by the switch, given Griffith's opposition to his now-former party's legislative priorities.

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"He went off the reservation a long time ago," a Democratic aide told NBC News. "This just confirms what we already knew for a long time. This is not based on [Griffith's] voting record. It's the way in which he's conducted himself."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the political arm of House Democrats, spent more than $1.2 million on Griffith's run in 2008, for his first term in office.

Despite his voting against major Democratic initiatives, the Democratic aide said Griffith will likely have to face a tough GOP primary because of other instances in which he voted in line with Democrats — particularly to approve the Troubled Asset Relief Program and several spending bills.

"When he's out there trying to sell himself to the conservative base, that's going to be tough," the aide said.

In April, Democrats benefited from the party switch of Sen. Arlen Specter, who left the Republican Party in the face of a tough re-election in his home state of Pennsylvania.

Specter's decision moved Democrats closer to a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate. Griffith's switch, in contrast, is unlikely to change the outcome of major votes in the House.

Msnbc.com's Carrie Dann contributed to this report.

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