PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Rep. Bob Stump, a conservative Democrat and administration supporter, quit his party Thursday to become a Republican - the first such defection in Congress since Ronald Reagan became president.
'I have been a Democrat all my life,' the three-term Arizona congressman said. 'But I find that I can no longer support the policies dictated by the liberals who dominate the party.'
The defection, first in the current Congress, reduced the Democratic majority in the House to 242 and increased the GOP roll to 192. There is one vacancy due to death.
GOP leaders, particularly National Chairman Richard Richards, have mentioned the possibility of approaching conservative Democrats about bolting the party.
'You can be sure he's met with Reagan on this and is going to get some goodies,' said Charles Pine, former Arizona Democratic chairman and a top party operative.
But Stump told a Phoenix news conference he never spoke with the president about his planned switch. 'I've made no deals and asked for nothing from no one,' the Arizona Democrat said.
There had been speculation Stump would change parties because of Democratic criticism in Congress of the support he has shown the Reagan administration.
'There were history-making proposals to cut the budget and cut taxes this session,' Stump said. 'I voted for all those proposals, against the demands of the party liberals.
'No pressure group, in or out of Congress, will dictate to me how I must vote.
'My conscience, and promises I have made to the people of Arizona's 3rd District will tell me what to do,' he said.
House Democrats met in caucus Sept. 16 and decided to grant amnesty to party defectors on individual votes. But the Democratic leaders said the defectors could be denied important committee posts or chairmanships in future sessions.
At the time, House Democratic Leader Jim Wright, D-Texas, said he hoped future discipline would not be necessary. He said many defectors already regret their votes with Reagan.
'The idea of the meeting was to keep the members in line on future votes ... to dictate how they will vote on certain issues,' Stump said.
'Members who don't follow party orders will be denied seniority and choice committee assignments. If carried out, the threat will seriously affect how well a member of Congress can represdent his district.'
Stump said he will run for re-election as a Republican in 1982 but will not physically change his party registration until next year. He said he was advised by members of the Republican minority there were no GOP openings on the Intelligence and Armed Services committees on which he currently serves.