The Senate Judiciary Committee this morning held a fairly routine meeting to mark up pending legislation -- but it was a significant milestone for Sen. Arlen Specter. Since his party switch last year, the five-term Pennsylvanian had been near the bottom of the Judiciary Committee seniority list, but today he moved up to the fourth Democratic seat as part of careful, quiet negotiations with his colleagues. In exchange for ditching the Republicans, Specter was promised by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that he would retain his seniority as if he were elected as a Democrat in 1980. But his colleagues balked and voted him the most junior member of the caucus.
Since then, Specter has assured that his seniority would be resolved while leadership spokespeople have said it will be taken up if he wins re-election this year. Specter said today that the six senators he leapfrogged -- Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin, Ben Cardin, Sheldon Whitehouse, Amy Klobuchar and Ted Kaufman -- all agreed that he could pass them. Next, he said,
he will try to gain back his seniority on the Appropriations Committee. Specter said that he worked through the leadership to make the change happen, but Reid spokeswoman Regan LaChapelle declined to comment.
Regaining the seniority is a delicate and ongoing process: Sens. Russ Feingold, Dianne Feinstein and Herb Kohl all remain ahead of Specter now on judiciary, even though they came to the Senate after he did. But when asked about the personal importance of moving up the ladder, Specter -- who used to chair the full committee -- said his chairmanship of the subcommittee on crime and drugs, ceded by Durbin last year, is very important to him. He added, "But it's all important."
-- Daniel Malloy