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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mark says:

    Presumably the seniority “deal” was coupled with a support the frickin party “deal”. Specter going out of his way to embarrass the Democratic leadership, including President Obama, vitiates said deal in my book.

    But either way, agree that it couldn’t have happen to a nicer guy.

  2. LaurenceB says:

    Reid made a promise, not only privately but publicly, …

    Did Reid actually confirm the deal publicly at any time? I know that Specter announced the existence of this deal, but I had not read that Reid ever confirmed it.

    Not that it matters a great deal. Just wondering.

  3. Bithead says:

    mmph.
    Any environment where Jack Murtha can be re-elected is bound to be a circus at the off.

    Specter having his seniority was one of the few remaining reasons Specter had any kind of edge at all in the upcoming cycle. That gone, it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of this falls out. Certainly, the polling data will shift… The most recent was taken prior to his losing that promised promised seniority. The Dems now take on the image of people who break their promises at need. Ask Bush 41 how that game gets played out.

    Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the fence, Tom Ridge…. the guy the Republican leadership is pushing for over local favorite Toomey… You know… Tom Ridge.. the guy who actually voted for the ‘Fairness Doctrine’… Turns out he’s actually a Maryland resident, these days. OK, that’s no showstopper,as James points up in his piece on the subject. Ridge obviously moved to Maryland to be closer to DC, since he’s becoming more of a Washington insider of late.

    But think; are the Republicans working for a Washington insider to get Specter’s seat? Yeah, given the anti-Washington insider element in the Tea Parties of late, that’s gonna fly, huh? That Senate seat and it’s foibles and indeed the politics of the entire area, appears to me to be an issue of who can appear more out of touch with reality. Frankly, I’m hard pressed to tell you who’s winning that race.

  4. DavidL says:

    Alas poor Arlen. Evidently Specter’s Scottish Law books didn’t include a chapter an loyalty. Hand me the world’s smallest violin.

  5. Alex Knapp says:

    Yes, who would have thought that little things like going on Sunday talk shows and uttering “I won’t be a loyal Democrat” might have–horrors!–consequences?

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    Ha ha ha ha ha.

    So much for that filibuster proof majority. I’m thinking Specter might like to stick it to Harry in just that way.

    Ha ha ha ha ha.

  7. Bithead says:

    Steve;

    So much for that filibuster proof majority. I’m thinking Specter might like to stick it to Harry in just that way.

    The chances were pretty good that Specter, always a loose cannon on deck, would be a problem on tight votes anyway, even before the stripping of his seniority. With it, I figure it’s a sure bet.

  8. Drew says:

    “Yes, who would have thought that little things like going on Sunday talk shows and uttering “I won’t be a loyal Democrat” might have–horrors!–consequences?”

    You vill say vhat ve vant you to say, you vill vote ze way we tell you……….and you vill like it!!!

  9. just me says:

    I think this was going to happen even if Specter hadn’t said some of the stupid things he has said.

    My guess is that sooner or later a democrat that can defeat Specter will announce he/she is going to run in the primary, and I predict Specter announces his retirement when the polls start to turn to crap.

    The problem for Specter is that he couldn’t win in a GOP primary, but he probably can’t win the democratic one either, if they run a good candidate against him. Specter is too much his own man and not enough loyal to any party, and I agree the one selling point he has always had is his seniority, and he no longer has that.

  10. Tlaloc says:

    It strikes me as a way for the dems to hold his feet to the fire before the upcoming election. If Specter behaves they can reinstitute his seniority in time for him to use it as a selling point in his 2010 run. If not, well then they help give his primary challenger a clear road.

    Alternately maybe they’ve just decided not to give Arlen a chance to reform and he’s being set to take a big fall.

    I also think the right is pretty jealous that the Dems have shown a lot more willingness to stand up to Specter than their party ever did. Seriously Specter has been a dem for two weeks and he’s already gotten smacked down for his antics.

  11. DL says:

    Specter quoting scripture after spending his entire political life seeking to support the slaughter of God’s most innocent creation, reminds me of Satan tempting Christ in the desert. That effort fell flat too!

  12. just me says:

    Alternately maybe they’ve just decided not to give Arlen a chance to reform and he’s being set to take a big fall.

    Why should they, what do they really gain. About the only advantage they have is he can give them cloture. But keeping Arlen when pretty much any democrat in PA running against him will be more liberal doesn’t seem like a good reason to keep the old dinosaur around.

    It is just having that magic number of 60. Personally I think they want Arlen to lose in their primary about as much as he was going to lose in the GOP primary. Nobody-democrat or republican believes Arlen switched for any reason other than keeping his seat.

    I also think the right is pretty jealous that the Dems have shown a lot more willingness to stand up to Specter than their party ever did. Seriously Specter has been a dem for two weeks and he’s already gotten smacked down for his antics.

    I don’t know about jealous, and I am not so sure he was going to get to keep his seniority even if he had been Mr. Loyal. But I do like the fact that the democrats aren’t kissing his behind, and think the GOP did a little too much behind kissing in his case over the years.

  13. Tlaloc says:

    Specter quoting scripture after spending his entire political life seeking to support the slaughter of God’s most innocent creation, reminds me of Satan tempting Christ in the desert.

    You’re precious.