With Arlen Specter’s party switch prompting a huge welcoming embrace from both the Democratic Caucus and the Obama White House, you have to wonder what kind of late game strategy might be on the drawing board to make up for the apparent initial setback when it comes to Obama’s first Supreme Court nomination.
At this point, all indications are that Specter will retain his status on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will force the removal of one current member – presumably Ted Kaufman, who recently was appointed to fill Joe Biden’s seat in Delaware and has the lowest seniority among the Democrats on the committee.
The GOP has already announced that Jeff Sessions (R-KKK,) will succeed the moderate Specter as Ranking Minority Leader on the committee. That leaves another GOP slot on the committee, and there is no reason to think they are inclined to appoint another moderate to replace Specter.
This means that, in addition to the distinctly rightward shift from Specter to Sessions as the head of the minority contingent, the ultimate outcome will likely be to swap Kaufman – the Senator selected to replace Obama’s own VP - for whomever the GOP decides to add to the committee to replace Specter - which could be someone as odious as Saxby Chambliss (R-Slimepit), or James Inhofe (R-Delusionville)!
Let’s hope Specter is worth it!
[Update] According to David Waldman at Congress Matters, the Dems apparently used some leverage over the Specter switch to get the GOP to agree to allow Specter to change sides of the aisle in his committee assignments without bumping another Dem and getting a GOP replacement (essentially building a bigger Dem majority on those committees). Waldman thinks the real concession came because the GOP “reeeeeeeeeelly didn’t want to give an inch on seating Al Franken!”
In addition, the Dems decided to strip Specter of his seniority on those committees until the end of the current congress, creating a situation where he presumably needs to earn the seniority back – which he won’t accomplish very easily if he keeps saying stupid things like wanting Norm Coleman to prevail in his legal battle to overturn the Minnesota election!
At the current rate, Specter may find getting elected as a Democrat to be a particularly rocky path, with the Netroots gearing up to, in the words of Jeff Lieber, “go Full Lamonty” on him in the primary; as well as the growing possibility that Pat Toomey, the scary monster who chased him from the GOP primary, will lose to another moderate like Tom Ridge and make the general election about which of two moderate conservatives is the most trustworthy!