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. Carolyn in Memphis Tennessee

    This sounds like normal stuff, you can't have an opponent on the same team. These Republican sure are nasty buggers.

    May 6, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  2. Scott the Independent

    Well the way he has back tracked on loyalty he should be facing a primary and should he lose he won't need to be concerned about senority.

    May 6, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  3. gwen

    As he should be, he is a newbie, you have to earn your seat! And he has some earning to do!

    May 6, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  4. lorac

    He got what he deserves!
    TURNCOAT penality! I hope there is more to come.

    May 6, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  5. Gimee A. Breyk

    Hey...he is a novice Democratic representative. It will take time for him to purge himself of all the mistaken ideas he had before he can incorporate the absolute truth. there a problem with that?

    May 6, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  6. Mike- Kansas City MO

    Oh the joys of political posturing!
    Give me a break! I am glad Senator Specter is a part of the Democratic party, but does seniority on a committee really matter? He still gets to be a member and participate in discussion, so what's the big deal?

    May 6, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. Pennsylvania Voters are MAD

    Congratulations Specter – you just stipped your state of a senior senator in exchange for a junio senator - If I were a PA voter, I would be hopping mad and would no more put specter back in office as some criminal

    May 6, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. Richard Conn Henry

    Winston Churchill "ratted" (switched parties) – and in due course he did it again! He famously said, "It is all right to rat, but you can't re-rat."

    May 6, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  9. Lori

    Specter will be the Democratic candidate next year and will most likely win, despite this lose of seniority. The majority of Pennsylvanians are Democrats. Besides, isn't Tom Ridge a moderate too? This ought to be good watching the GOP try and pull this one off.
    Wow, if you'd look at these blogs you'd actually think that conservative support was more than 21% in America. Oh, wait... that's right. This is the Republicans only way of venting since the majority of America isn't buying what they're saying. As you were...

    May 6, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  10. Fair is Fair

    He was stripped of his seniority by a unanimous voice vote.

    So here's the liberal spin:

    Arlen Spector was stripped of is seniority. But since he was "forced" out of his party, it really was the republicans fault.

    End liberal spin.

    May 6, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  11. Realist

    Wake up! They are all the same, Republicans and Democrats. They are all Politicians. A rose is a rose by any other name.

    May 6, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  12. George

    Love live Obama socialism

    May 6, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. BOB

    Arlen Spector is an "over the hill" ego maniac so hooked on being in the Senate and "riding in the big cars" that he has willingly sacrificed all principles and those voters he has defrauded–A SECOND TIME-to try to hang on to his warped sense of what is important and at the same time outright lying by saying his continued tenure will be important to the "people" of Pennsylvania! What a crock!!!

    May 6, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. Gimee A. Breyk

    Not only do we all emit co2 when we exhale, but we all have the same ability to emit hatred. To think it is only a right wing or liberal or repub or dem or anyone else thing is to not objectively read posts or to listen.
    So, to find humor in this behavior in others is kinda like saying you are free from it. Hmmm…I would expect, if that were true, you would choose to be offended rather than entertained. I think this is a big deal to Specter because he will lose some power and he will be viewed as the 'new guy'. That will impact the bacon he brings home to his constituents and thus, perhaps his seat.

    May 6, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  15. GOPer

    Good – Appropriate justice for a turn coat.

    May 6, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  16. Debbie from VA

    Natasha did you read the article? It was the democrats who made him the junior senator. Hopefully, as a voter, you pay more attention to what you read.

    May 6, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  17. Obama 2.0

    It should be temporary.

    May 6, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  18. Bill

    To all of the people who are complaining that senators should have term limits:

    Congress was set up bicamerally for a reason. The House of Representatives, in which members must be re-elected every two years, is the body that is supposed to be swayed the most by voters. Senators, much like the members of the Supreme Court, were supposed to be able to vote their conscience without worrying about the effect it would have on their re-election, thus the longer terms. I do concede, however, that this is not the case in this day and age but some founders of this great nation wanted senators to have life appointments but compromised for only six year terms. Imposing term limits would go against this compromise.

    May 6, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  19. Brad - Wildomar CA

    To blazes with party loyalty. When did the party become more important than the role of representation of your constituates interests? Both parties need to consider taking a step back and let people in elected roles demonstrate whether or not they can fulfill their purpose as extensions of their supporting voter's interests. The party rams too many candidates down our throats who are good party hacks, but lousy elected officials. If Spector is a good Senator for his home state, who cares what party button he wears on his lapel?

    May 6, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  20. Southerner

    Specter goes from Rino to Dino. The new term is ironic considering his number of years on the senate and lack of seniority will probably lead to his extiction. 🙂

    May 6, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  21. renobill

    The main thing is that he's on our side now. Way to go Specter! Anyone else care to jump? Come on over.

    May 6, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  22. Simmy

    I guess that's the BIG payback for voting against the President's recent Budget....But that can't be so since there are Democrats opposing the President's energy bill.....Maybe it's a rule of some sort that I'm not familiar with (yet). Anyway....It's a bit hypocritical I think.....His years in Congress should not be denied, nor disrespected.....I'm leery of his motives, I admit, but I have the conviction to be fair, and judge him innocent until proven otherwise....

    May 6, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  23. Karma

    I got him on the seniority issue, and I am working on getting him next year during the elections...the GOP will get him in November if the Dems don't get him during the 2010 primary.

    Didn't Spector pay any attention to Jim Jeffords?

    May 6, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  24. Bob in Pa

    There should be no senority in either the House or Senate
    The American people deserve the best person for the job.

    May 6, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  25. Mark

    Welcome to the Democratic Party Senator Spector.

    May 6, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
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