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. Rockman9

    Spector belongs to the democratic party because they're the party that gets blown around like a leaf in the wind. He was a demo, went to the republicans, now back to the demos. The demos are on the sides of everything that is wrong with the USA, abortion, homosexuality, faith, big business (yes, its no longer a republican label since LaBamba starting bailing them all out of their financial mess), anti-war freaks, etc. The rest of the world is really concerned because the anchor of morality in the USA is now showing significant signs of rust.

    May 6, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  2. Joe in Austin

    Specter is too good and too valuable for this to be permanent. However, let's not forget his smearing of Anita Hill in support of Clarence Thomas.

    May 6, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  3. mac

    I guess we can forget about Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins changing parties anytime soon.

    May 6, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  4. yen

    You cannot eat your cake and have it. It has to be what it is.

    May 6, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  5. Kink in Texas

    Spector is a fool and an opportunist, but most politicians are. He will lose the senate seat in 2010 even if Mickey Mouse runs!!!

    May 6, 2009 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  6. Jc Ohio

    Its amazing .... so many people are caring more about "Party" affiliation and "Party" loyalty ....

    What about loyalty to the constituents? Since really that is what he's know for ... doing whats best for those who elected him irregardless of their party affiliation!

    The RNC was going to hang him out to dry because he wasn't "Conservative" enough for them. Didn't march to the "Parties" drummer ...."Rush?" ... so bother siding with them at all.

    In the end "YES" he sacraficed his "Senority" ... big deal. Pa will re-elect him because of his loyalty to them ... not a particular "Party"

    May 6, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  7. Mark

    Its interesting how many people consider him a "backstabber". He exercised the same right that we as citizens have. Its one of the reasons I remain an independent. I refuse to be labeled as a certain party.

    This does show though, that the democrats in power have little respect for him. It also sets a poor precedent if others change their affiliation as well. If you were offered a new position with the company you work for, but it meant that you would be stripped of your seniority at the company, how many of you would actually do it??

    Also, His (and any other elected offical) loyality should not be to a specific party or to Obam as Ajay Jain so brilliantly put in his comments, but to the PEOPLE WHO ELECTED HIM AND THOSE HE REPRESENTS.

    I don't know about most of you, but I do not want a senator or representative who is "loyal" to their party or to a specific person (be it president or speaker of the house, or the guy who cleans their car at the airport). I want someone who is going to do whats right for the United States and for the people who elected them.

    May 6, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  8. Mike

    The republicans are just angry that people in their perty do not like what is going on and are leaving, as evident in the last elections. You have people refering to them as Benedict Arnolds, turncoats and disloayalists. Congradulations republicans. You've just described Ronald Reagan, a democrat who changed parties when it appeared tha he could not secure the democratic nomination for governor in California.

    May 6, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  9. Laura, Keene NH

    All Spector has to do is to tell the Dems. "look I get seniority or else I vote with the republican" .

    My feeling is "good for him"! He is reaping what he sowed. Did he really expect the dems would care about his seniority?

    All they care about is how to spend away our children's future with all of the spending being done.

    May 6, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  10. Reiver

    Still waiting for Specter to move forward on charging Anita Hill with perjury. He had not trouble repeatedly making the accusation to the media. Perjury is a serious matter, especially before a congressional panel. Hope the statute of limitations has not run out.

    May 6, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  11. Mike in MN

    Looks like there is no more room for Specter in the Democratic tent as there is in the Republican. But at least in the Democratic tent he will be at home with the fakes and liers.

    May 6, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  12. James

    For those posting t make reference to how Ronald Reagan was treated by the Republicans when he wisely switched from the Democrat party, remember he was treated so badly he was elected President of the United States. And, he was elected with an overwhelming super majority.

    Mybest wishes to Arlen Spector, but, it will be better for the U.S. to have him out of political power. Now, he will be able to take his large retirement check and enjoy his life after the senate.

    May 6, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  13. Slider

    This is a marriage made in heaven: a Senator with no convictions, and a party with no scruples.

    I hope the rest of the wishy-washy panderers left in the GOP defect to the Democrat party. It is time to liberate the GOP of these losers.

    Enjoy him Democrats.

    He's your problem now.

    May 6, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  14. Robert

    The DEMOCRATS stripped him of his seniority.

    All the liberals are reading what they want to read in this article.


    May 6, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  15. Pam

    I'm really glad I switched from Democrat to Independent.

    May 6, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  16. FL

    Okay, why are people blaming any of this on the GOP? Specter said he changed parties so he wouldn't have to run in the Republican primary. His choice, no one forced him out of the GOP. He lost seniority by a unanimous vote in the Senate, that isn't the GOP being mean to him because he left the party, it is the entire senate taking away his seniority because neither side trusts him.

    May 6, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  17. Dallas John

    If we have a minimum age to be a President or Congressman, should we not have a maximum age? Government workers have a max age for forced retirement. Politicians should have the same for just this reason.

    May 6, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  18. Emmanuel A. Smart

    No simpathy from here, Senator.

    But, what did he expect from a party which publicly empbraced him after the switch? The president offered him his best for crying out loud!

    Instead, he voted against their budget and publicly recanted his loyalty pledge. As if that was not enough, he said he hoped the court rules in favor of Coleman in an all-but-settled court case. MISSPOKE my bald head!

    May 6, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  19. Rick

    C'mon Pennsylvania, do the right thing and vote this clown out of office!

    May 6, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  20. Ben

    Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. He's getting exactly what he deserves. He has no prayer of winning next year.

    May 6, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  21. Jac

    Whoa! talk about twisting in the wind! I'd like to be a fly on the wall in his office today, watching him pack it up for his new basement office anyway...

    May 6, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  22. Shahid

    That's what happens when people are flip-flopping without a backbone, clinging to the winner at the moment, chasing popularity. I thought he's old enough to learn that.

    May 6, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  23. cookie-cutter liberal

    Stupid Republicans.... why are they so mean about everything? Don't they realize that Specter only did this for the economy.... after all, this is just one more job saved under the Obama administration. Let's celebrate by holding hands and meditating to the mellow sounds of Kenny G. Yay, Obama!!!

    May 6, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  24. shucks

    He has now learned what his previous party will do out of spite and anger at anyone who opposes their non-agenda other than voting "NO" for anything they can. We will gladly vote him in as Senator of Pennsylvania for all he has done for our state in the last 30 years as a politician that was loyal to his constituents as opposed to his party. The republicans consistently show their lack of character at every turn. I respect Senator Specter for his candor and truth regarding the back stabbing egomaniacle republican party.

    May 6, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  25. Ray

    GOOD – he deserves what he got. Now if the voters of Pennsylvania have the good sense to vote him out of office next year, that will be a perfect ending.

    May 6, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
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