Specter Learns the Democratic Ropes

By Kate Barrett

May 6, 2009 11:27am

ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: It seems that Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., is still learning what it means to be a Democrat.

Republicans pounced yesterday when advance copies of this weekend’s New York Times Magazine began circulating. Included is a questionnaire with the Democrats’ newest senator — who promptly said that he hopes the Republican candidate in Minnesota’s disputed Senate election is declared the winner.

"There’s still time for the Minnesota courts to do justice and declare Norm Coleman the winner," Specter said.

There’s something to be said for loyalty — or, maybe not.

Pressed on his comments last night, Specter told CQ’s Bart Jansen that he "misspoke."

"In the swirl of moving from one caucus to another, I have to get used to my new teammates," Specter said. "I’m ordinarily pretty correct in what I say. I’ve made a career of being precise. I conclusively misspoke."

Such imprecision is unlikely to gain him many friends in the Democratic Party, particularly at a time that a potential primary challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., is moving toward a run.

As far as his new friends in the Senate go, late Tuesday the Senate Democratic caucus formally moved to strip Specter of his seniority on committee assignments — despite Specter’s statement last week that he’d been assured that he would keep his high-ranking spots.

Today, a coalition of progressive groups and blogs — including Daily Kos, Open Left, and Democracy for America — is sponsoring an online "straw poll" asking a simple question:

"Should a Draft Sestak movement be created to take on Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary?"

Any guesses as to what the answer might be? UPDATE: ABC’s Jonathan Karl points out that Specter is looking on the bright side when it comes to his seniority. Today, his office issued a press release expressing confidence that he will be treated as if he had been first elected as a Democrat back in 1980 — but only after the 2010 election, when the new Congress votes on subcommittee assignments. So, to get his seniority back, Senator Specter has to clear three hurdles:  1) He has to win the Democratic primary; 2) He has to win the general election; and, 3) He has to convince his Democratic colleagues — who just voted unanimously to give him no seniority — to vote in favor of giving him back his seniority. This is not something Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., can do on his own and, for his part, Reid is giving no such assurances publicly. Says Reid spokesman Jim Manley, "As in the past, that will be subject to the will of the caucus after the 2010 elections."

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus