Specter Stripped of Seniority
Arlen Specter, who has continued to embarrass the Democratic Party to which he’s just switched, such as announcing his hope that Republican Norm Coleman somehow wins his appeal and is seated instead of Democrat Al Franken, is not keeping his three decades of seniority after all.
The Senate last night stripped Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) of his seniority on committees, a week after the 29-year veteran of the chamber quit the Republican Party to join the Democrats.
In announcing his move across the aisle last week, Specter asserted that Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had assured him he would retain his seniority in the Senate and on the five committees on which he serves. Specter’s tenure ranked him ahead of all but seven Democrats.
Instead, though, on a voice vote last night, the Senate approved a resolution that made Specter the most junior Democrat on four committees for the remainder of this Congress. (He will rank second from last on the fifth, the Special Committee on Aging.) Reid himself read the resolution on the Senate floor, underscoring the reversal.
Democrats have suggested that they will consider revisiting Specter’s seniority claim at the committee level only after next year’s midterm elections. “This is all going to be negotiated next Congress,” Jim Manley, a Reid spokesman, said last night.
Specter’s office declined to comment.
The loss of seniority could prove costly to Specter in his campaign to win reelection in 2010, denying him the ability to distinguish himself from a newcomer in his ability to claim key positions.
Specter said last week that becoming chairman of the Appropriations Committee was a personal goal of his, and his Senate service seemed to put him in position to be the third-ranking Democrat there. Now, though, he will not hold even an Appropriations subcommittee chairmanship in 2011 — a critical foothold Specter has used to send billions of dollars to Pennsylvania.
Specter also appeared to be next in line to chair the Judiciary Committee, behind the current chairman, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). But when Supreme Court nomination hearings are held this summer, he will be the last senator to ask questions of the eventual nominee — a dramatically lower profile than in 2005 and 2006, when he chaired the confirmation hearings of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Now, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. But a deal’s a deal. Reid made a promise, not only privately but publicly, that he had the power to carry out. Further, it’s almost unheard of for a party switcher not to get to keep their seniority.
UPDATE: Scott Ott reports that, “Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, who last week became a Democrat to boost his odds of winning re-election, again shocked the political world when he announced today that he had switched from Judaism to Christianity in hopes of regaining the seniority which the senate stripped from him Tuesday.”
“Now that I’m last in line,” Sen. Specter said, “I find the words of Jesus the Messiah very encouraging when he says ’some are last who will be first’. When I read that in the gospel of Luke this morning, I felt like the Lord was speaking directly to me. So when Jesus said, ‘come unto me, Arlen‘, I said, ‘Here I am, Lord’.”
A parody, of course, but not implausible.