May 7th, 2009
10:57 AM ET
6 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. Fair is Fair

    Hey Arlen Specter,

    What's it feel like to be given your playground toy back? There, there, Arlen... you were a good little boy... now take your bouncy ball and go play...

    You, sir, are a waste of perfectly good oxygen others could be breathing.

    May 7, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  2. Sniffit

    I love it. If you don't think the whole charade made him look better to Republican PA voters who previously put him in office 5 TIMES, and who might have been worried he was going to be a Dem puppet, you're not paying attention.

    May 7, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  3. KizzyMae

    This is cleary an egotistical power play.

    May 7, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  4. anita

    trust is a dirty word in all politics.

    May 7, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  5. abraxis

    I am certain now that Specter needs to go back to Kindergarten to learn what it means to stop whining.

    May 7, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  6. Bill in Dallas

    I am really concerned about Senator Specter's remarks since switching parties. He says on Meet the Press he is not a loyal Democrat and repeats it.. He sounds like he really does not want to be a Democat but forced to be one out of political expediancy. The he hopes Norm Coleman is seated and the Minnisota Supreme Court does the right thing as if Al Franken stole the election which is the typical Republican Party line. He votes 70%-80% with the Repubs and he voted against the President's budget and says he will not support any health care plan that is government single payer. Why would President Obama campaign for this guy. He sounds like McCain. I think the Democrats need to support a younger more reliable Democrat and let Senator Specter retire.

    May 7, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  7. obama/mama

    They should never have stripped him of his seniority just because he changed party. He worked hard to get to this point.

    May 7, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  8. SHIRLEY "60"

    As a life-long democrat, I am not pleased with Specter in any form. He has no allegiance to anyone except himself, and that is quite evident. If he actually does not distinguish himself in the next year and a half with our party, I believe he can be ready to pack up and retire. He is obviously a pain in the you know what. This is what he, and so many of the other white haired old congress people should do anyway. There should be term limits in order to not allow these people to become too comfortable and demanding in these seats. This country needs to clean house and get rid of all those cranky people who have been there too long, and who are really not about the business of the people. They seem to be only serving their own egos.

    May 7, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  9. vinny

    Anyone else just disgusted by this kind politics? Both parties!! Congress is a glorified playground battle of children. Yuck.

    May 7, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  10. eliyoyo

    Really Durbinesque, to reqlinquish prominence, stature in favor of decisions anchored in quicksand, you don't know whether he will be for or against you. What a waste, in terms of tenure, the ability to finally make a mark in favor of earned democratic choices. Seems like what we have been getting so far from our Illinois Senater, on the fence for the most part, is a continuation of the woose factor in committee chairmanships. Sooo sad. Spincter Spector, at least will be decisive in his words, and actions...until he loses in the next election.

    May 7, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  11. Minnesotan

    Specter threw a big enough tantrum and got what he wants. Norm Colman, here in Minnesota, is trying the same tantrum through the legal system. I guess that's how things are done in Washington. But it's so weird because it's so distant from reality.

    May 7, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  12. Brian, Detroit, MI

    Should you think that he is a closet Republican, Or should you think that he is only trying to keep his job in the senate so that he can promote his own issues, or should you think that he is only trying to keep his job so that he can make more money, to the end of us all. I think he was ousted from the Republican party because he was there too long and he had no other choice but to become Democrat to still be in the government and make more money for himself. OUST HIM, NOW!!!

    May 7, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. Simpliticus

    Either Durbin didn't want this subcommittee chair position in the first place or Specter must have really needed to be pacified. WOW! This is what is meant as running home to mommy in the Senate!

    May 7, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  14. Same Old White House

    The last thing the democrats wanted was honesty and fair play to stand in the way of their agenda.

    May 7, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  15. TRUTH

    ARLEN be glad that you have a job, do not blow your job in 2010 PLEASE KEEP QUIET

    May 7, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  16. franco

    What has become of American statesmen? We now have a Congress of crybabies, radical individuals, concerned only of their careers. Let's throw the bums out!

    May 7, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  17. Mike in MS

    Well if he was promised something in return for selling his soul he should get it. Too bad he may be out of office in2010.

    May 7, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  18. Lori

    Arlen deserves the chairmanship. He has earned his stripes. I'm glad he jumped the sinking GOP ship.

    May 7, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  19. fred

    while I thought Spector's move was dumb and was for self-interest, he had to have expected this from a guy as evil as Harry Reid.

    May 7, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  20. Mark.B'ham,Al.

    Spector will find out the democrats treat their Blue Dogs just like the republicans treat their moderates, with disgust.

    May 7, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  21. Corwin7

    Once again the party of "Greed Over Principles" is stymied in thier quest to fault the democratic party for anything except spending the money on infrastructure that the previous republican administration sneered at in favor of huge tax breaks for thier wealthy campaign contributors and illegal(not to mention immoral) wars overseas to enrich thier investment portfolio's. The democrats must feel like former orphans on thier first christmas morning after adoption..."What? Another present for me!?!?!?"

    May 7, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  22. Glennis

    I can't wait to see Pennsylvania voters send Specter's sorry self back to Philly. Everyday, he seems more self centered and afflicted by creeping senility.

    May 7, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  23. George

    HAHAHA Seriously?

    What is the DNC deaf and blind, the party activists are already raising money to defeat specter in the 2010 primary.

    Like we would campaign for a spineless republican.

    Please, this is just another yellow belly move of Harry Reid.
    Just when the Democrats give a lesson on dicispline, they CAVE immediately.

    I cant wait to beat Specter in 2010 priamry, just like we did to Lieberman.

    May 7, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  24. obama/mama

    All the complainers saying he is acting like a big baby. Put yourself in his shoes. If you switched jobs and had a lot of experience wouldn't you want to be recognized for your worth. Same thing here.

    May 7, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  25. ken

    Politics at its best!!

    May 7, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
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