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. joe smith

    and you all thought AIPAC had no influence

    May 7, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  2. Kevin in Ohio

    I love it...the demoncrats already in disarray. Sure didn't take long.

    May 7, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  3. Chamorrita, MD

    You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Politics at its best. Everyone is a pawn on the chess board, everyone is expendable.

    May 7, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  4. JAY JOHN

    Specter went to the democrats side because he found out
    he could get more pork and not have to pay taxes.

    May 7, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  5. Specter is a Republica

    For over 30 years Arlen Specter has worn and championed the Republican colors. His loyalties, philosophy, values, priorities, and beliefs are born out of the Republican platform which he helped construct. Any person has his head in the sand if they really believe the man can or will change his entire belief system and his life long political opinions simply to win what will be his last election, and suddenly become a liberal Democrat voting the party line. Arlen wants a final term on the national stage before he retires. Right now he is saying anything and everything to get that chance. Once achieved, Specter will continue to act and be the man he has been for his entire political life – a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania. Arlen is also a masterful startegist. Right now he has President Obama on record as saying he will support him in reelection ... so if the dems really think they can strip Arlen of his seniority and his positions on committees, you are sadly mistaken. Arlen holds the cards in this poker showdown and he is playing everybody masterfully.

    May 7, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  6. Chip

    P.T. Barnum's got nothin' on these guys!

    May 7, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  7. Dave

    What a bunch of corrupt politicians. Spector should be voted out of office based upon his being elected by Republicans and than switching party affiliation to gain re-election. The honest and intelligent Republican and Democrat voters need to show him that they know exactly why he switched party affiliation. And, the rest of the incumbent members of Congress should also be voted out.

    May 7, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  8. Glenn, Cary, NC

    Because Specter will never be a reliable vote for the Democratic Party and because he's a goofy old guy to boot, Obama and the Dem Party leaders should have borrowed a line from Sarah Palin – "Thanks, but no thanks." We could have elected a real Democrat from Pennsylvania next time, but now we will either be saddled with Specter (yuck) or a vicious primary fight (bummer). Apparently the marketying savvy that put Obama in the White House did not imbue him with the ability to make rational political decisions. Too bad.

    May 7, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  9. Proud DHS radical

    Crime and Drugs Subcommittee?? LOL! That's like having a McDonald's buger flipper give up his job to chef Emeril Lagasse, and Lagasse is suppose to be happy about it.

    May 7, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  10. JLS

    Hey Arlen, How does that knife that Harry Reid stuck in your back feel?? Betcha you really feel like a Democrat now, right?

    May 7, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  11. Independent_me

    Specter needs to start supporting the Democrats and refrain from statements in which he seems proud to be ready to oppose them!

    May 7, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  12. Ellen B

    Politics just disgust me. I have voted Republican, but really both sides are just looking out for themselves as individuals instead of the American people. We need term limits in the House at least. Maybe I need to research the Libertarian party...

    May 7, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  13. Puff the Magic Dragon

    Sounds like a fight on the playground.

    May 7, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  14. Rick

    Spector strikes a nerve with Republicans the way Lieberman strikes a nerve with Democrats.

    May 7, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  15. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    That's a noble thing of him to do.

    May 7, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  16. Bob in Pa

    That's it Dick, you're a hell of a guy. Fall on the sword old Harry.

    May 7, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  17. Here, take my power!

    Oh Durbin. (eyes rolling) He is the poster boy for ineffectual Democrats. He gives power away with real expertise.

    May 7, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  18. Tulsa

    lol.. keep crying rushbots. The rest of the country can get along fine without you, but you are SO funny!

    May 7, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  19. craig in Atl

    You sleep with dogs Sen Specter you get fleas

    May 7, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  20. ric

    Specter is out in 2010....

    May 7, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  21. James

    This is all politically motivated the dems would do anything and I mean "do anything" to hold power.

    May 7, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. William in San Jose

    Why again? Specter is just as bad as Lieberman but the Democrats have no problem forgiving both politicians and providing a nice comfort zone for either. Pathetic... Specter needs to be shown the door, he doesn't even pretend to not be a career oportunist.

    May 7, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. geecee

    Durbin is a decent guy to do this. It would be a cold day in hell before a Republican would do likewise. That's why the Democratic Party is doing so much better than the Rethugs. They are willing to compromise! It helps alot. All you posters are showing your anger at Specter for defecting. That's okay, we'll get our 60 vote filibuster proof majority and actually be able to get things done for America instead of living with the gridlock and obstructionism we had to endure under the Rethuglicans for so many years.

    May 7, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  24. Pat F

    Congratulations, Democrats! You've just given birth to a bouncing baby HEADACHE!

    Works for me – just remember, he is NOT returnable!

    May 7, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  25. nejl

    To say that Specter is a life-long Republican is ignorant of facts. He switched parties before to get elected. He was a Democrat, before he was a Republican. Despite that switch, he has not been voting for Republican issues. He certainly has not championed the Republican colors, and his loyalties, philosophy, values, priorities, and beliefs are certainly do not reflect the Republican platform. He has always maintained his independence. The reason why he was to face a stiff primary challenge is because of that independence. Specter is merely being opportunistic and trying to stay in office. Nothing more, nothing less.

    May 7, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
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