May 7th, 2009
10:57 AM ET
9 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. Matt

    Wow, he gets to eat his cake too. Lucky him.

    May 7, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  2. We don't need Specter

    Wake up folks! Specter is a closet Republican, now wearing a Democratic coat. We don't need him in the Democratic Party! He won't even get us the 60th vote most of the time!

    May 7, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  3. phoenix86

    Maybe Reid can give up his leadership post as well.

    May 7, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  4. Fred the Moderate

    I'm not sure why anyone has to give up their seat to Arlan. He is the sole reason Clarence Thomas sits on the highest court in the nation and never ever deserved it. He didn't have the credentials, was never successful at anything and got away with sexual harrasment, which is a crime. He was, is and will never be a Thurgood Marshal.

    And if no body gives up their seat, what will he do? Quit? GFo back to the GOP? Do a Liberman and turn Independent? Face it, he's not going anywhere and you can't trust him to add his vote when you need it.

    I say leave him in no-mans land. He can't be trusted

    May 7, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  5. Bob the Observer

    Otto von Bismark is famous for the quote, "To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making."

    This little incident this week is probably one that most normal Americans just need to turn their backs and forget that they ever heard anything about it.

    If we mortals knew half of the shady wheeling and dealing that goes on daily in our legislature, we would all probably want to move to Pitcairn Island.

    May 7, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  6. Jerzjen

    Politics at work. It's been this way even before the Constitution was signed. Truth be told, I'd rather have this than military coups, or some other such nonsense.

    May 7, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  7. worriedmom

    Typical democrat play. Now what is Harry gonna do??? wah,wah

    May 7, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  8. Bob the Observer

    Specter lost his seniority by a "unanimous voice vote" this past week. That means one of three things:

    1. "Unanimous" is a deceptive word - a lie in fact - that could be a matter of procedure in the Senate.

    2. Specter was not present in the senate - and I wonder why not, since he is still "on the clock."

    3. Specter was stupid enough to vote for something, not realizing it was about him.

    Any of the three scare me.

    May 7, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  9. PK California

    No dissaray here. It's what is known as COOPERATION! That's something Republicans know nothing about. Specter has a great deal of respect on both sides of the isle. He had many reasons for making that move, but I think the biggest one was the Republicans are in a rut with no leadership except for a bunch of TV buffons who think they have the answers for everything and by being given so much air time, they're drunk with power (they think). As long as this remains the case, the party will go nowhere fast!!!!

    May 7, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  10. Tate

    Fred the moderate sounds like you are talking about Obama the only sad thing is he is the president but could not get a job at my firm. Not a lot of need for teachers, failed lawyers and community agitators.

    May 7, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  11. Patrick

    He'll get with the program now that he has been smacked down and shown who runs things. I love how republicans try to put a brave face on this, when we all know they are freaked. You want evidence...look how hard they are still fighting for Coleman. His record is barely more conservative than Specter. I hope Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins come and join our big tent as well. It is alot of fun to watch the republican collapse that started in 2006 and continues until??? They are dissolving in to an ever more irrational party that is circling the drain. Look for them to be completely irrelevent after the 2010 election.

    May 7, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  12. Jerry

    Specter will learn quickly which "side of the aisle" can be trusted, and which one cannot!

    May 7, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  13. Paul from Phoenix

    Wow, so the Dems were not strong enough to stand up to a whining Spector. Reid's ineffectiveness shows again. He needs to go!

    May 7, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  14. Nina Bates

    This is crazy; politicians that have to be coddled; all this strategizing to keep a Democratic seat and control regardless of whether it's good for the American people or not. I don't believe any of you in Washington represent us's all about power. I am sick of all of you! What is wrong with you people?

    May 7, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  15. Lori

    This is delicious. He's all yours now, Dems. No backs....

    May 7, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  16. single mom

    I can't look.
    Someone tell me when it's November 2010.

    May 7, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  17. Kevin

    Incredible! The deocrats can't get along with the Republican and now they can't get along with each other. They will destroy their self.

    May 7, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  18. B.H.

    Yet another GOP HACK that has to be given reasons to be......
    These OLD men haven’t had a – new thought – for years and are no help to anyone solving problems for the American people now.

    TERM LIMITS of 8 years and they are gone !!!!!!

    May 7, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  19. jean

    Does anyone else find these games the democrats and Specter are palying stunningly duplicitous and deceitful. What a shady and two-faced bunch of characters leadng this country – truly sad to see what depths our politicians are trawling at these days.

    May 7, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  20. waitaminute

    The difference between Lieberman and Specter is foresight. Lieberman bailed after he lost, while Specter saw the loss coming. So while these guys claim to have principles, it's really about retaining office.

    May 7, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  21. Art

    I don't see what's so hard about this. He was a senior Republican and switched parties. Now he's a junior Democrat. If he should win in 2010, whick i kinda doubt, and a newly elected Democrat comes into the senate, guess what? He moves up in seniority. I'm backing the Democratic party on this one and I'm a Republican.

    May 7, 2009 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  22. Steve, Columbia SC

    Oh wow, they've thrown you a bone Arlen.............feel better?

    May 7, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  23. Bev - NYC

    There goes those Democrats working together , discussing differences, doing whats right for the party and making compromises like adults. Who can find fault with that?

    May 7, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  24. Judy

    Dick Durbin is a good man.

    May 7, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  25. John W. Racine, WI


    Arlen, that is the ONLY WAY you will get a DEMOCRAT [or REPUBLICAN, for that matter] to live up to a PROMISE!

    Reid got a BILLION dollar fast rail train – to be built with tax payer money – from San Francisco to Nevada, simply so he can transport ILLEGAL ALIENS from CA to Nevada – a corridor back-and-forth... perhaps you can FIGHT that too!

    May 7, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
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