Specter gains chairmanship, loses potential foe

May 7, 2009

Senator Arlen Specter, who has had some rocky times since switching from the Republican to Democratic party last week, had a really good day on Thursday.

Specter gained some power — the chairmanship of a Senate subcommittee — and lost a potential and powerful reelection foe, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge.specter

“After careful consideration and many conversations with friends and family and the leadership of my party, I have decided not to seek the Republican nomination for Senate,” Ridge said in a statement.

Earlier on Thursday, Senate Democrats, who had stripped Specter of committee seniority this week, turned around and gave him the chairmanship of a Judiciary subcommittee on crime and drugs. 

“I want Senator Specter to feel welcome in our caucus,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, the Democrat who surrendered the chairmanship to make way for Specter. 

“It is something I’d like to do,” Specter said. 

Specter riled members of both parties last week in becoming the chamber’s newest Democrat.

Former Republican colleagues accused him of abandoning them merely to improve his chances for reelection to a sixth term in his increasingly Democratic state.

And Democrats were peeved by some of his initial action as their newest colleague.  Specter voted against President Barack Obama’s $3.4 trillion budget plan and opposed a Democratic bid to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.

He also joked that Republican Norm Coleman may end winning the contested Senate race in Minnesota and denied a report he had told President Barack Obama “I’m a loyal Democrat.”

On Tuesday, Democrats stripped Specter of committee seniority and the Pennsylvania Democrat cried foul.

Specter said Senate Majority leader Harry Reid had assured him that he would maintain seniority if he became a Democrat.

Democratic aides, however, insisted Reid told Specter that the matter would be decided by the full Senate Democratic caucus, and would be revisited after the 2010 election.

An upbeat Specter said on Thursday, “I’m confident that the seniority will be restored in due course.”

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Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst.  (President Barack Obama and Senator Arlen Specter at the White House)

One comment

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Senator Arlen Specter will need to convince Democrats that he jumped ship mainly out of real conviction and not for convenience. If he does that convincingly, there is a bright future for him. More and more Republicans are disillusioned with the GOP and may jolly well decide to switch allegiance. The Democrats will have to be prudent before accepting Republicans into their rank and file: their credentials and intentions will have to be vetted very closely. President Obama has shown smart leadership and Republicans are beginning to realise that their political party is like a rudderless ship. Obama is calling all the shots as America grows from strength to strength.