WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Democratic leader in the Senate promised Sen. Arlen Specter he would retain his seniority when he jumped from the Republican to the Democratic party, Specter told CNN Wednesday, but faced "pushback" from other Democratic senators.
On Tuesday the Senate confirmed that Specter had lost his seniority in a resolution that set out committee assignments for the entire Senate. The resolution was approved on a unanimous voice vote.
(I Tweeted this out a while ago to my largely conservative audience, and most found it to be an example of instant karma. This line pretty much sums up the responses I received: "Big time lesson learned there. never trust a D's word. Ouch!")
Clearly, Specter feels strongly about maintaining his seniority. Just this past Sunday when "Meet the Press" host David Gregory asked Specter whether or not he had been given anything to persuade him to switch parties, Specter responded: "No, that's an entitlement ... I've earned that seniority."
But many Democratic Senators were clearly upset at Specter's "line jumping." Barbara Mikulski (D-Md) arguably put it best, saying: "I'm happy with the Democratic order but I don't want to be displaced because of Arlen Specter." No doubt, this unrest led to today's surprise decision.
On Monday at a town hall meeting, Specter was quoted as saying: "My senior position on Appropriations has enabled me to bring a lot of jobs and a lot of federal funding to this state."
Presumably, Specter's 'clout' was a prime rationale for retaining the irascible incumbent. With that argument no longer relevant, why not elect someone else?
Assuming his seniority isn't restored, today's announcement might very well encourage his Republican and Democratic rivals. Currently, Republican Tom Ridge is rumored to be considering the primary race, as is Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak.
Aside from Specter, Majority Leader Harry Reid also comes out of this looking like a weak leader who either will not -- or cannot -- honor his agreements. As Politico reported, "... Reid had no option but to strip Specter of his seniority, staffers with knowledge of the situation say. Reid preserved a vestige of his original promise to Specter by vowing to revisit the matter after the 2010 midterms."
One can only imagine Reid will have a harder time persuading future Republicans to enter into this sort of Faustian pact.
Again, this could have all been avoided if President Obama just took my advice and nominated Arlen Specter to the Supreme Court.