May 6th, 2009
12:09 PM ET
11 years ago

Senate strips Specter of seniority after party switch

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter has lost his seniority on Senate committees after recently switching parties."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Arlen Specter was in the driver's seat when the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled the two newest Supreme Court justices back in 2005, but the Pennsylvania senator won't be front and center next time.

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.

On Tuesday the Senate confirmed that the party switch dropped him to the bottom of the heap in terms of seniority.

That means he will be the very last to speak when the Judiciary Committee questions President Barack Obama's yet-to-be-named nominee to replace Justice
David Souter - after even Sen. Ted Kaufman of Delaware, who has been a senator for all of four months.

In fact, only two of the 18 other senators on the committee have been in the upper house longer than Specter - and he has been in the Senate longer than seven other committee members put together.

But there is more at stake than Specter's ego or bragging rights.

The old saw "rank hath its privileges" holds true in the U.S. Senate as in few other places. With seniority comes the ability to influence legislation.

Specter lost his seniority on other committees as well, including the powerful Appropriations Committee - the one that doles out money. He's now junior to Montana's Sen. Jon Tester, who has been in the Senate since 2007.

Specter has been citing his seniority on the Appropriations Committee as he hits the campaign trail as a Democrat.

"My senior position on appropriations has enabled me to bring a lot of jobs and a lot of federal funding to this state," Specter said at a town hall meeting on Monday.

Over and over, he made a point of telling an auditorium filled with medical faculty and staff about the hundreds of millions of dollars he delivered to the Keystone State, thanks to the power he's accumulated in his 29 years in the Senate.

"Pennsylvania has a big interest in my seniority, a big interest," he said.

A day later, the Senate has stripped him of that seniority. The resolution, which set out committee assignments for the entire Senate, was approved on a unanimous voice vote.

–CNN's Dana Bash and Kamalpreet Badasha contributed to this report.

Filed under: Arlen Specter • Democrats • Popular Posts • Senate
soundoff (198 Responses)
  1. Stephen

    Yeah, you Republicans are right to rant and wail about the backstabber and how he deserves what he gets for turning his back on his party! Just like you must be mad as hell that Reagan went Republican from being a Democrat way back when! You must _hate_ that guy! Oh, wait...

    May 6, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  2. Matt

    Specter was obvious about his political intent for the switch. Had he genuinely "joined" the ranks of democrats, the red carpet probably wouldn't have been covered in ice.

    May 6, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  3. Jeff B.

    I don't see how he's being "dissed". That's how it works. As a Democrat, he's now a junior senator.

    Good luck winning that primary, Arlen!!

    May 6, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  4. Ajay Jain, Garland, TX, USA

    Serves Sen Specter right for claiming to NOT be a loyal Democrat or loyal to Obama in the Senate!!!

    Obama – Biden 2012

    May 6, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  5. Bob Evano

    Retire specter, your time has passed.

    May 6, 2009 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  6. The dude

    way to go dems – they need to run a strong challenger against him in the primaries. America is not served by have one more self absorbed turd in the Senate

    May 6, 2009 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  7. KC

    He doesn't care about America or the American people he is "suppose" to represent. He only cares about himself. I say vote him out.

    May 6, 2009 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  8. Jeff in Houston

    As much as I want to beleive him, I trust him not further than I trust Liebermann, perhaps a bit less so. Any mind capable of staying with a party based on what the Republican party has become, is not a mind I want making laws.

    May 6, 2009 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  9. Leo

    You right-wingers used to critcize us lefties for all the cry-babying. Now, it's your turn to cry.


    May 6, 2009 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  10. webster

    Spector was a democrat before he switched to be a republican. he is not a back stabber. he is what he is,

    May 6, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  11. Carl from MI

    Hell hath no fury like a political party scorned!!!

    I'm sure they would do more to him if they could. They could have taken the HIGH ROAD like the Democratic party did with Leiberman, but the Republicans are the party of NO and vindictive one and all!!

    And Specter DOES care about America... it's the Republicans who don' and can only think of 'Party First'... hence, their actions with Specter.

    I can't wait to see who leaves their party next... and will the last one who leaves please turn off the lights!! hahaha

    May 6, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  12. phoenix86

    Hopefully he loses his seniority in his pension calculations as well.

    May 6, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  13. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    So much for screwing a good senator with a conscience.

    I switched from Democrat to Independent last year before the election. I am glad I did.

    I was also a long-termer, having voted Democratic since JFK.

    I wonder why Spector didn't go Independent like Lieberman.......

    It is unfortunate that Spector wasn't advised before he changed parties of the consequences.

    It is not illegal or immoral or unethical to change political parties. It is our right as Americans, and I am tired of all the negativity about this subject.

    May 6, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  14. Tony

    A Man without and Island.

    He desreves this. This is the start of his end.

    The Dems will use him and toss him aside just like they have so many others. How could he be so stupid? He had to know this was coming – he is a politican.

    May 6, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  15. Denny Virginia

    As one who was born and raised in the Keystone state all I can say is it couldn't happen to a better guy. He betrayed his party (parties) twice and now he's just another useless senator milking the taxpayer everytime he collects a pay check. Then again that pars him with 99% of those in Congress.

    May 6, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  16. toonaguy

    Actually, his changing parties is a sign of how little integrity Specter really has. He switched sides because he thought he would have an easier time getting re-elected, not thinking how this would impact his state. So PA suffers for his selfishness. Living in PA myself, I am glad that he is being punished for putting himself ahead of my state. Hopefully Tom Ridge will now run for the seat, as he has a proven track record of delivering for Pennsylvania.

    May 6, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  17. Bob

    I can't believe someone actually used the word "integrity" and Specter in the same sentence. He would have been a loser in the election no matter what party he ran under.

    May 6, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  18. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I guess Arlen is going to have to work his way back up in the ranks.

    May 6, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  19. Kevin

    Serves him right for being the snake that he is. He leaves the Dems to join the Repubs and then leaves them to join the Dems. Why would either party ever trust a snake like that is beyond me.

    May 6, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  20. middleclass warrior

    The Party,the party.Both parties suck and are controlled by the Federal Reserve,a giant private bank with hidden owners.

    May 6, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  21. Pa for Obama

    Joe Sestak for US Senate! I like Specter, but as a practical matter he's already said he's not going to be a loyal Democrat (in so many words.) His seniority was the only thing he had left and now that's gone so it doesn't make sense to support him in a democratic primary.

    May 6, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  22. Natasha

    This shows how petty the Republican party is to the people.

    May 6, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  23. Ren from Baltimore

    The arrogance with which he switched had an overpowering stench. I thought he was a better man. I should have looked more deeply into his past "disciplined" actions-i.e., looking out for himself. Never a loyal Republican, never a loyal Democrat, never....

    I do wish him continued recovery after his bout with cancer, and truly think he should take the rest of his time for his family.

    May 6, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |

    Specter Pa will vote For a real Democrat!

    May 6, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  25. Jackie in Dallas

    Specter has a reputation as a straight dealer in the Senate. While I'm not a big supporter of some of his stances, he does espouse a moderate viewpoint, something which is no longer welcome in the GOP.

    Many are forgetting that he started out a moderate Democrat, at a time when there weren't many of the them, and switched parties to Reagan's Big Tent GOP, where he became the voice of moderation there.

    Yes, he wants to be re-elected. He has served his constituency well by reflecting their needs and wants, which is his job. Considering the enormous number of registered Republicans in Pennsylvania that have switched to the Democratic Party, and the fact that the NRC was going to support a more "conservative" party hack in the primary rather than back him, I don't blame him at all for switching affliations.

    May 6, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
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