May 7th, 2009
10:57 AM ET
5 years ago

Durbin to give up subcommittee chairmanship in favor of Specter

Sen. Durbin, right, is giving up his chairmanship of a subcommittee in favor of Sen. Specter, left.
Sen. Durbin, right, is giving up his chairmanship of a subcommittee in favor of Sen. Specter, left.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, is giving up his chairmanship of the Crime and Drugs Subcommittee and giving it to Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pennsylvania, Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker said Thursday.

Durbin, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate, agreed to do give up the post after a day of intense negotiations and public feuding between Specter and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid over Democrats stripping Specter of his seniority on key committees.

The subcommittee is a relatively powerful position in that it apparently oversees about 60 percent of the Department of Justice, according to Shoemaker.

A Democratic leadership source, who did not want to speak on the record about internal Democratic dynamics, also told CNN that Democrats decided to do this for Specter for two main reasons.

First, they want Specter to win re-election, and this gives him a powerful legislative perch from which to run. Second, the Senate Judiciary Committee is about to deal with a new Supreme Court nomination.

"The last thing we want is a disgruntled Democrat at the end of the dais," this Democratic source told CNN.

The full Senate voted Tuesday to strip Specter of his seniority, dropping him to the bottom of the pile on every committee he sits on. The action came on a resolution - passed on a unanimous voice vote– that set out committee assignments for the entire Senate. Specter suggested other Democratic senators
had objected to him moving ahead of them in the all-important seniority ranks.

Specter said Reid had told him "I would maintain my committee assignments and that my seniority would be established as if I'd been elected in 1980 as a Democrat."

After the vote, Specter said, "The caucus has some concerns, some people who would be passed over, and we're going to work it out," he said. "... I'm confident that Sen. Reid's assurances on my seniority will be fulfilled."

Specter jumped from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party last week, putting the Democrats within reach of a 60-seat "supermajority" that could make it all but impossible for Republicans to block Democratic legislation.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, suggested Specter had irritated his new colleagues by telling the New York Times the Minnesota courts should "do justice" by declaring Republican Norm Coleman the winner of a bitterly disputed Senate race against Democrat Al Franken.

"I think it made many members very upset," Stabenow said in answer to a CNN question about whether Specter would have maintained his seniority if he had not made the comment. "... It was definitely something that concerned everybody. Yeah."

Listen: Candy Crowley discusses Durbin stepping aside in favor of Specter



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Filed under: Arlen Specter • Democrats • Dick Durbin • Popular Posts • Senate
soundoff (99 Responses)
  1. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Durbin;
    "ask not what your party can do for you"
    Specter
    "ask what your party can do for you"

    May 7, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  2. Obama 2.0

    Thank you,
    Harry Reid and R & L wing nuts will pay. I am the center, the Independents that believe in voting issue specific, We recognize that Spectar and two other Republicans vote this way and not by herd/party vote. Striping him of his many years of standing up does not bode well with the center R & center L voters. Watch what happens in 2010!

    May 7, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  3. Qui-Tam Relator

    ****************************************************************
    How can anyone in this country Republican or Democrat trust Arlen Spector after being chief in charge of the Warren Commission. This whole commission and Arlen Spector lied straight face to the American Public about the Assaination of President Kennedy and then pushed the viewing of these documents to 2038. He is a part of the Aluminate in this government. "We The People" Republican or Democrat should not trust this SNAKE IN THE GRASS ! Have we American's forgot who this guy is or are we just plain STUPID.
    ****************************************************************

    May 7, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. Barbara Independent in NY

    Thank you Senator Durbin. Unbelievable. Let's hope that Specter stops voting against President Obama's agenda. If Specter represented my state I would go door to door campaigning against him.

    May 7, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  5. Kate in SW Fla

    If Democrats ever expectr another Republican to want to join their caucus, they had better wise up. Many moderates are fed up with the right wing of the Republican Party, but are waiting to see what happens with the 2010 elections. If the far right continues to dictate who is nominated, and continues to dominate the platform, more moderates will want to leave also. While they may prefer to become Independents instead, that is not a viable answer in mnay states, where there are more limitations to their ability to fund raise and run in primaries. In any event, Arlen Specter is a really good Senator, and I am very happy to see him caucus with the Democrats. If you look at is voting record, you will see that he has supported many Democratic priorites and does not seem any more to the right of the party than Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh. If we say we are a big tent, then we had better be one.

    May 7, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  6. obama/mama

    This is called conflict and resolution. Give and take. Something republicans have no interest in. They just believe in bullying themselves through life.

    May 7, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  7. IndepndentAmerican

    Sen. Specter........... good for you, for leaving the sinking ship that is the GOP!

    May 7, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  8. Ivan Schiff

    Fellow Democrats calm down, don't worry, Specter gave up a lot by leaving the Republicans (he can not go back) he has to adjust to his new situation. He'll see the light when push comes to shove.

    May 7, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. Brian

    There is a Republican in the Democratic Party !!

    Perhaps they could do a trade and give the Republicans Lieberman!

    Seriously, the senate needs term limits to prevent corruption like this.

    This reminds me of Star Wars - unlimited power !! :(

    May 7, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  10. Imarriedmysister in Alabama

    Durbin is doing whats best for the coming votes that will crush the republicans.Rush Limbaugh probably went to the Caymans to bury his millions before the taxman got there,but dont worry dittoheads he will be back monday.

    May 7, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  11. abl

    Let's see a little love for your new party, Arlen. I think that's what they're trying to tell you. This is not the time to declare you're voting against EFCA or that Norm Coleman should be handed the election. After 30 years in the Senate, it should've occurred to you that this strategy might not cut any ice. Might be wise to at least wait until the ink on your new stationery is dry to show your "independence".

    May 7, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  12. Kate in SW Fla

    If Democrats ever expect another Republican to want to join their caucus, they had better wise up. Many moderates are fed up with the right wing of the Republican Party, but are waiting to see what happens with the 2010 elections. If the far right continues to dictate who is nominated, and continues to dominate the platform, more moderates will want to leave also. While they may prefer to become Independents instead, that is not a viable answer in many states, where there are more limitations to their ability to fund raise and run in primaries. In any event, Arlen Specter is a really good Senator, and I am very happy to see him caucus with the Democrats. If you look at his voting record, you will see that he has supported many Democratic priorites and does not seem any more to the right of the party than Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh. And, his many years of experience are such a plus, I am hopeful this will be resolved in a grown up way. If the Democrats had only cared about having a non-experienced, lower seniority Senator, then they could have helped fund Toomey on the primary, then defeated him in the fall. If we say we are a big tent, then we had better be one.

    May 7, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  13. StuckinmoderationMari

    I for one, respect Arlen Specter who when it was time to vote for the Stimulus, set aside party and ideology to support his Nation.

    May 7, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  14. Tom Swift - Shopton NY

    `
    Well why not? Isn't Specter one of the senior ranking leaders of the Democrat Party?

    As a senior ranking Democrat he is entitled to whatever he wants.

    `

    May 7, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  15. Jana DeJonghe

    Specter is a big Cry Baby! He Flip-Flops like a chicken with it's head cut off if it gives him a chance to get elected. Granted he is one of the few republicans that votes his mind and with the people of his state rather than the dedicated party support vote, you have to give him credit for that. But to allow him to "use" the democratic party to support his re-election efforts and then pull an outstanding democrat like Durbin out of his rightfull place to pander to the whinning of Specter is a bit sad. But then again it says a lot about how the democrats are working as a unified body to promote the presidents policies and if that means a bit of "give and take" I guess you have to do what needs to be done for the benefit of the country and the majority of the people. Having a better chance that democrats will be able to vote in a progressive new Supreme Court Judge without the Party of "NO" republicans blocking the nomination, ANY Nomimation.

    May 7, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. Joe in Austin

    Unbelievably stupid of the democrats. While the WH is in good hands, it shows how poorly congress is being run. They need to put their egos down, and just do what Obama tells them to do. He's better at it than they are.

    May 7, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  17. S Callahan

    This was the right thing to do...you just don't give your word and not follow through.

    May 7, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  18. southerncousin

    This certainly reinforces the arguments for term limits. What a bunch of clowns.

    May 7, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  19. sms29s

    Even if Specter deserved to be stripped of seniorty based on his remarks about the Democratic party's positions on issues, the Democrats need to be afraid of a Tom Ridge candidacy. So it's a pact with the devil. Suck it up and move on. Keep the big picture in sight. After all, in spite of Rush, the Repubicans will probably try to field a few candidates who appeal to moderates.

    May 7, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  20. Sam

    Speaking as a lifelong resident of Illinois and staunch supporter of Senator Durbin, this doesn't bother me at all.

    May 7, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. Ron S in TX

    How can you expect different results by using the same people? I agree. So how will the results be any different? I do not think it will be different. Is this more “change you can believe in”? What a dog-and-pony show here.

    May 7, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  22. zgomer

    Just a bunch or butt kissing with Durbin and Specter and the loser Harry Reid, what a joke on how to run this country, the GOP will prevail next year, count your days you libs!

    May 7, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. mkevinf

    God, politics is ugly.

    Why are the Democrats concerned that Specter win the general when it's very possible that he might not win the Democratic nomination for the seat? I don't think Joe Sestak is going gently into that good night, and frankly as a life-long Democrat I am not at all happy with Specter.

    But for now, I guess we have to put up with this schmuck.

    May 7, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  24. Ren from Baltimore

    Sen Durbin,

    Thank you for your selfless action here. Let's hope it will be reciprocated appropriately.

    May 7, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
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