More trouble in paradise for Former-Democrat-Turned-Republican-Turned-Democrat-Again (yes, he switched before, back in 1965) “Benedict” Arlen Specter:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) deal to allow Sen. Arlen Specter to retain his seniority after he switches to the Democratic Conference has not been received well by senior senators in the party.
Several Democrats are furious with Reid for agreeing to let Specter (Pa.) keep the seniority accrued over more than 28 years as a Republican senator. That could allow him to leap past senior Democrats on powerful panels — including the Appropriations and Judiciary committees.
“I won’t be happy if I don’t get to chair something because of Arlen Specter,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who sits on the Appropriations Committee with Specter and is fifth in seniority among Democrats behind Chairman Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Sens. Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.) and Tom Harkin (Iowa). “I’m happy with the Democratic order but I don’t want to be displaced because of Arlen Specter,” she said.
So, looks like either Reid breaks his deal with Specter, or he infuriates a lot of the senior Democrats in the Senate. Given Reid’s track record, it looks like his deal with Specter is kaput. After all, what’s Specter gonna do if Reid breaks his promise? It’s not like Specter can re-join the GOP at this point; that bridge is well and truly burned.
Update and bump: As expected, Reid has broken his promise to Specter.
Specter says that Reid has promised to let him keep the seniority he accrued as a Republican since first winning election to the Senate in 1980. This would make Specter senior to all but a few Democrats when the Senate is scheduled to next organize committee assignments. (Panel positions for the 112th Congress will be decided after the 2010 election.)
But several senior Democrats have pushed back strongly against Reid’s deal with Specter, which was negotiated in secret.
Under pressure, Reid now says it will be up to the Democratic caucus to determine whether to recognize Specter’s 28 1/2 years of seniority.
Furthermore, Reid now does not think Specter will displace any senior Democrat atop a coveted committee or subcommittee.
Reid acknowledged Friday that the question of Specter’s seniority will be up for the entire Democratic caucus to decide, not him alone as leader.
This shows a measure of ineptitude on several fronts. Why did Reid make the deal in the first place? Did he really think he could bully or sweet-talk his Senate colleagues into accepting it? Why did Specter accept it? He should have realized once he burned his bridges with the GOP he’d be at Reid’s mercy. If Specter had been smart, he’d have left a door open to rejoining the GOP (perhaps being a bit less harsh in his press conference), but he decided instead to vent his spleen and cut off any chance of coming back. Reid was at least smart enough to realize what Specter had done.