Well, that didn't take long. Less than 24 hours after Arlen Specter dropped his dirty bomb of a party switch, the asses have already begun their loud braying. Sen. Specter's return to his long-abandoned Democrat Party is probably not proving to be the homecoming he had hoped for.
Last night we reported that Specter may have to face two challengers. Now it has been revealed that some senior party members are less than thrilled with the deal that the Majority Leader apparently promised Snarlin' Arlen to entice him to jump ship:
Several Democrats are furious with Reid for agreeing to let Specter (Pa.) keep the seniority accrued over more than 28 years as a Republican senator. That could allow him to leap past senior Democrats on powerful panels — including the Appropriations and Judiciary committees.
"I won't be happy if I don't get to chair something because of Arlen Specter," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who sits on the Appropriations Committee with Specter and is fifth in seniority among Democrats behind Chairman Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Sens. Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.) and Tom Harkin (Iowa). "I'm happy with the Democratic order but I don't want to be displaced because of Arlen Specter," she said.
The Hill heard from a "senior lawmaker" that when it comes to a vote the Democratic Conference will just say "no" to allowing Specter to be granted seniority over such party stalwarts as Harkin, Mikulski and Feinstein. Reid, it seems, was willing to give away the store and promised Specter that the defector could cut in line up near the front, ahead of all but a few Democrats when such highly-coveted "party favors" as committee chairmanships and assignments are dispensed:
"That’s his deal and not the caucus's," the senior lawmaker said of Reid’s agreement with Specter.
There has been some speculation that Specter could steal Harkin's chairmanship of the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee or even repossess the chair of the powerful Judiciary Committee if current chair Leahy gets the chairmanship of Appropriations. Specter chaired Judiciary when Republicans controlled the Senate and presided over the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
But the senior Democratic lawmaker says such speculation is not grounded in reality:
"That can’t happen. Seniority is decided by the caucus."
The way some Dems see it, Specter should be coming to their party with his hat in his hand:
"He was a cooked goose," said the senior Democrat. "He was going to lose to Toomey, and we were going to beat Toomey. We did him a favor by allowing him to remain in the Senate."
It evidently all depends on what the meaning of "seniority" is. According to Reid's definition, Specter would have three decades of seniority at the start of the 112th Congress. But some Senate Dems say only Specter’s time in the Democratic Party should be counted to determine his seniority in the caucus. That would give Specter only one day of seniority, putting him behind such junior Senators as Roland Burris and Kirsten Gillibrand. The good news for Specter under that scenario is that he would have seniority over Al Franken, when the comedian is finally seated later this year. Still, the joke may be on Specter.
As if all of this nuclear fallout from his defection were not enough, some Republican donors who contributed to Specter now want their money back and are demanding refunds. It must not be easy being a defector. There are few who have sympathy for them, and for good reason. Another famous Pennsylvanian, Thaddeus Stevens, who served as a U.S. Congressman and dominated the House from 1861 until his death in 1868, wrote:
"Strip the proud nobility of their bloated estates, reduce them to a level with plain republicans, send forth to labor, and teach their children to enter the workshops or handle the plow, and you will thus humble proud traitors."