Sen. Arlen Specter lost big under a resolution approved by the Senate Tuesday night: He won't be able to retain his seniority on five committees this Congress.
In announcing his switch to the Democratic Party last week, Specter said that Democratic leaders assured him that he would be treated as if he were elected as a Democrat 29 years ago — essentially allowing him to leapfrog most Democrats and put himself in line to become a committee chairman if he wins reelection in 2010. Several Democrats have taken exception to the notion that Specter would be taking possession of their prized real estate.
By voice vote on Tuesday night, the Senate sided with that sentiment in approving a resolution that adds Specter to the Democratic side on Judiciary, Appropriations, Veterans Affairs, Aging and Environment and Public Works — expanding Democrats' majority on those panels.
Specter will be treated as the most junior member of those panels — putting him last in line in speaking time during committee hearings and limiting his influence on those panels. When the Judiciary Committee considers Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Specter will be the last Democrat to speak, and he's last in line to chair the committee if the current chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), steps down.
The move may have come as shock to Specter. Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, he said that it's an "entitlement" for him to retain his seniority on those committees.
"I was elected in 1980. I think that's not a bribe or a give for something extraordinary," he said. "I'll be treated as a Democrat as if I was elected as a Democrat."