Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Seniority Shockwave and Getting Seniority Back Not a Sure Thing

OK, so I was tired when I put this in a roundup last night rather than giving it the "Holy crap!" treatment -- but Sen. Specter losing his seniority for the next 1 1/2 years -- and maybe not getting it back -- yikes, that's big.

One of his biggest selling points for the primary and the general election was going to be "I can bring home the bacon because I have almost 30 years of seniority." That ability was a major reason counties all over Western PA were scrambling to get even a sliver of their communities into Congressman Murtha's district during the last redistricting. (See the 12th District map here.)

At least one commentator today likened the situation to Specter being on probation. That seems like a good description.

But even if Specter does shape up, I wonder -- of the 58 Democratic senators who now outrank Specter in seniority -- if Specter returns for the 2011-12 session, how many of those more senior Democratic senators will be willing to let him claim part or all of his seniority from his time as a Republican?

Senator Specter is of course expressing confidence that he will get his seniority back.

I am not so sure. If he returns in 2011, there have already been hints that some Democratic senators will remember his work on the Judiciary Committee helping Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Scalito, er, Alito get on the Supreme Court.

Others will look at how high he would rank on the Appropriations Committee and think, "Hey, I want that money going to MY state." (And some would also recall how much money he's appropriated for ineffective "abstinence-only" sex education over the years.)

From a Politico article today, here's a sampling of what I mean:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of an Appropriations subcommittee who would have been passed over by the more senior Specter, said it would have been an unfair move.
"When you get to be a chairman you really have some control of that area, and that's what makes it interesting for me," Feinstein told POLITICO. "Somebody comes in on top - then everybody gets bumped. Then somebody gets bumped from the committee. That's a very hard thing if you've got 14 years having been on that committee. Obviously you'd like to stay where you are. I understand how people feel about it."
Feinstein said she's heard other members complain about Specter keeping his seniority too. "It's a concern and I think Sen. Specter will understand that."

You get the idea...

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