After Seniority Flap, Specter Lands Plum Gig

Durbin engineers Judiciary shuffle, giving newest Dem a gavel
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 7, 2009 12:09 PM CDT
Republican-turned-Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill, May 5, 2009.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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(Newser) – Dick Durbin has yielded his seat atop the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on crime and drugs to Arlen Specter, a consolation prize after Democrats stripped their new colleague of his seniority, Politico reports. In exchange, Durbin will take the helm of a newly reconstituted human-rights subcommittee. The move should help convince Pennsylvania voters that Specter still wields influence despite having been stripped of his seniority.

Handing Specter a gavel, even of a subcommittee, is also expected to help keep him in line during the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation tussle. "What we don't want is an angry former Republican during a Supreme Court hearing," a Democratic staffer told the Washington Post. Specter chaired the Judiciary Committee in 2005-06 and was the ranking member until he jumped parties.