As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, May 01, 2009

Still Waiting For Democrat Arlen Specter

I have seen absolutely no change in the voting record of Arlen Specter to this point to indicate he will transmorgrify into some mainstream liberal, despite past practice among party switchers. But even if he did move his positions to the left, I can understand why senior Democrats would wince at the extreme gift of seniority bestowed upon him. Some of this is sour grapes on the part of Senators, but the rules of the chamber indicate that years of service to the party equal expanded power, and Specter spent close to 30 years opposing them, only to leapfrog them at the flip of a switch. And that's not likely to hold, because it's not Harry Reid's decision to make.

Under his deal with Reid, Specter would jump ahead of all but a few Democrats when it comes time to dole out committee chairmanships and assignments.

“That’s his deal and not the caucus’s,” the senior lawmaker said of Reid’s agreement with Specter.

The lawmaker requested anonymity because the issue of Specter’s seniority is “a sensitive subject.” The lawmaker said it would be OK if Specter joined his panel as long as he “sat at the end of the dais” with junior members.

Since Reid and Specter announced their deal, Senate insiders have speculated that Specter could bump Harkin after the election from his chairmanship of the powerful Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services subcommittee or return to be chairman of Judiciary if the current chairman, Leahy, takes over the gavel at Appropriations. Specter was chairman of Judiciary in the 109th Congress when Republicans controlled the chamber, and ushered through the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

But the senior Democratic lawmaker disputed these scenarios: “That can’t happen. Seniority is decided by the caucus.”

That's good, in a way, since Specter has until the re-organization of committees in 2010 to show some loyalty to the party and prove his worth to the caucus. Which is why there also needs to be the threat of a primary challenge to allow constituents to make their own decision about who they want to represent them. Accountability Now PAC, the new progressive organization dedicated to electing better Democrats, sent along this release:

Accountability Now PAC announced today that it opposed efforts by elites to deny Pennsylvania Democrats their right to choose a candidate for U.S. Senate. Powerbrokers claim to have promised Senator Arlen Specter a “clear field” in next spring’s Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate.

"We believe that primaries play a critical role in empowering voters, and we oppose ongoing efforts to deny Pennsylvania Democrats their right to choose who represents them in the Senate," said Jane Hamsher, founder of and co-founder of Accountability Now. “Senator Specter certainly deserves a fair hearing from Democrats, but Pennsylvania Democrats have the right to hear from alternative voices who may be closer to their views on critical issues.”

“Elites believe that primaries are messy,” said Glenn Greenwald of and co-founder of Accountability Now. "Accountability Now believes that nothing focuses the mind of a politician on listening to citizens better than a primary."

"Accountability Now PAC is not prejudging the Pennsylvania Democratic primary," said Accountability Now's new Executive Director, Jeff Hauser. "We will follow closely voices from Pennsylvania about how well Senator Specter is serving their state, and take our cues accordingly. Ultimately, it is the Democrats of Pennsylvania who should choose their Senate nominee, not the DC Establishment.”

If Democrat Arlen Specter wants to make his case that he would be the most effective representative for Pennsylvania Democrats, so be it. But the voters ought to have a choice.

...the next few months are going to prove that 60 votes isn't a magic panacea and that Democratic Senate leaders will find all kinds of ways to make even more excuses for why they can't make progress. The bottom line is that there's one person to blame if the progress doesn't happen, and his name is Harry Reid.

...Reid is now backpedaling furiously on the seniority deal. Good.

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