Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) said he is in line to reclaim the Senate Judiciary Committee chairmanship, but is being blocked by three senior Democrats, according to a story in The Hill newspaper Wednesday.
Specter said he struck a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that would give him the gavel if Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) takes the helm of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Pennsylvania senator, who became a Democrat last spring, previously held the Judiciary Committee gavel from 2005 to 2007 when he was a Republican.
“The arrangement I had with Reid is that I would have the same seniority as if I had been elected as a Democrat in 1980,” Specter told the newspaper. “I would be behind Leahy, and when he moved up to chairman of Appropriations, I would move to chairman of Judiciary.”
Leahy is next in line for the Senate Appropriations Committee chairmanship, which is held by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii). But Inouye, 85, has launched a reelection bid for this year and appears healthy.
Specter landed himself a more senior seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee last month after he occupied the most junior seats on the panel for almost a year.
Democrats initially denied Specter seniority in the panel when he switched parties last spring. Until Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) joined the panel last summer, Specter held the most junior Democratic seat on the committee, 11 seats away from Leahy, who occupies the best seat in the committee room. But he has held the gavel of the Judiciary’s crime and drugs subcommittee since the spring.
The Pennsylvania Democrat became the panel’s fifth-ranking Democrat in March, behind Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and ahead of Sen. Charles Schumer of New York. Feingold and Sens. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Dianne Feinstein of California, who are respectively the second- and third-ranking Democrats, do not support Specter cutting in front of them for the gavel, according to The Hill.
“You don’t come this far to watch people on the other team cut in front of you,” a Democratic aide told the newspaper.
Specter told The Hill that there has been “some pushback from the [Democratic] caucus” about putting him in line for the Judiciary committee gavel. But he said he will continue to push the issue and might request a Democratic Conference vote on the matter before the election.
A Reid spokesman declined to comment to the newspaper.