On Meet the Press last weekend, David Gregory asked what "inducements" Arlen Specter had been given to switch parties. "None," replied Specter. "None?" asked, incredulously. "None," Specter replied. Gregory still didn't believe him. "You won't retain your seniority, as you move over, on, on key committees?"
"That's an entitlement," said Specter. "I've earned the seniority. I was elected in 1980. And I think that's, that's not a bribe or a gift or something extraordinary. I will be treated by the Democrats as if I'd been elected as a Democrat." That was the original deal, anyway. Reid promised him seniority. That would have made him the seventh most senior Democrat in the chamber.
But Specter wasn't elected as a Democrat. Nor has he been acting like one. And so his colleagues appear to have decided to stop treating him like one. In a voice vote last night, Senate Democrats stripped Specter of seniority. That makes Specter the most junior Democrat on four of his committees, and the second-to-most junior on the fifth. It keeps Specter from running for reelection based on his seniority: He's no more powerful in the chamber now than Joe Sestak would be. It significantly reduces his standing and capability in the chamber. And, frankly, it's humiliating. Specter is now loathed by the Republicans and unwanted by the Democrats. He's not, like Joe Lieberman was, just a man without a party. He's a man without friends.
Indeed, The Washington Post reports that "Reid himself read the resolution on the Senate floor, underscoring the reversal." The establishment, it seems, is backing off its support for Specter. And as if to render the judgment more clearly, unnamed Democrats told The Post that "they will consider revisiting Specter's seniority claim at the committee level only after next year's midterm elections." That's if Specter survives, and if he behaves.