Why Did Arlen Specter Join the Democrats?

If Arlen Specter jumped ship to become a Democrat because he thought he’d feel more welcome and get more respect, he got a rude awakening. I’d say he’s singing the Rodney Dangerfield blues about now. From the Washington Post:

The Senate dealt a blow tonight to Sen. Arlen Specter’s hold on seniority in several key committees, a week after the Pennsylvanian’s party switch placed Democrats on the precipice of a 60-seat majority.

In a unanimous voice vote, the Senate approved a resolution that added Specter to the Democratic side of the dais on the five committees on which he serves, an expected move that gives Democrats larger margins on key panels such as Judiciary and Appropriations.

But Democrats placed Specter in one of the two most junior slots on each of the five committees for the remainder of this Congress, which goes through December 2010. Democrats have suggested that they will consider revisiting Specter’s seniority claim at the committee level only after the midterm elections next year.

“This is all going to be negotiated next Congress,” Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), said tonight.

Specter’s office declined to comment.

Without any assurance of seniority, Specter loses a major weapon in his campaign to win reelection in 2010: the ability to claim that his nearly 30 years of Senate service places him in key positions to benefit his constituents…

Without that seniority, though, Specter, 79, would not even hold an appropriations subcommittee chairmanship in 2011, a critical foothold Specter has used in the past to disperse billions of dollars to Pennsylvania.

Arlen Specter left the Republican party because he no longer felt welcome. He said the Republican party has moved too far to the right. Of course he was roundly criticized for his votes, most of which were cast in opposition to the Republican party’s core principles, but the party never stripped him of his seniority or his committee leadership positions. To do so because of how he voted would be disrespectful. And as Hermie rightfully pointed out in the comments below, the GOP also backed Specter in his reelection bid over Toomey, whose principles are much more in line with the GOP’s, with money and campaign support.

Senator Specter actually belongs in the Democratic party and should have been there all along because his views are a better fit for him than the GOP. The only reason he had not been with the Dems all this time is because it was never politically expedient for him. Back in 1980 when he had been a Democrat for years, the only way he could get into the Senate to begin with was to run as a Republican. Now, he has returned to his original home in the Democratic party, you know, the folks who are so tolerant and open mined.

Update: Ed Morrissey points out how differently Jumpin’ Jim Jeffords was treated when he moved from Republican to Independent.

Contrast this to the treatment given Jim Jeffords when he jumped to the Democrats and temporarily gave Tom Daschle control of the Senate. Jeffords kept his seniority and landed a committee chair (Environment and Public Works), and kept his seniority for committee assignments. If Reid really did make a similar deal with Specter, then his caucus just sent him a message as well, a humiliation that will make Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins think twice before following Specter into rookie status.

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