Conventional wisdom has Specter's defection all but guaranteeing that the Democrats and Obama, without the threat of the filibuster, will be able to confirm just about anyone they want. But his defection may have actually made it more difficult. From Dorf on Law:
Does Arlen Specter's defection from R to D strengthen the President's hand in Congress? Perhaps overall but not on judicial appointments because breaking (the equivalent of) a filibuster in the Senate Judiciary Committee requires the consent of at least one member of the minority. Before today, Specter was likely to be that one Republican. Now what?
Specter's absence leaves the GOP with: Orin Hatch, Charles Grassley, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions, Lindsey Graham, John Conyn, and Tom Coburn. Graham would be the obvious pick to vote to let the nominee out of committee. He joined the Gang of 14 and has shown a desire to project himself as an staunch bipartisan. That being said, the GOP, with a few exceptions who aren't members of the Judiciary Committee, have shown the ability to stick together in opposing Obama in other areas. Whether that opposition extends to judicial nominees remains to be seen, but this committee rule may be something for the GOP to rally behind should Obama nominate a particularly egregious candidate.
Who knew Specter's absence would actually arm the GOP for the judicial battle that is likely to come?