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Dems Appease Specter With New Chairmanship


Sen. Arlen Specter has reclaimed some of his authority on the Senate Judiciary Committee, one day after the Senate voted to consider the former Republican a junior member of the Democratic Party.

Democratic leaders have agreed to let Specter replace Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) as chair of the crime and drugs subcommittee. Durbin said Specter has been "a leader on criminal justice issues for decades." The panel, which is the Judiciary Committee's busiest, is responsible for legislation on drug sentencing.

"Over the past several days, Senator Reid, Senator Leahy, Senator Specter and I have had a number of conversations about ways to best utilize Senator Specter's talents and experience in our caucus," Durbin said in a statement, adding, "I will continue to play a significant role on issues within the subcommittee's jurisdiction – especially those affecting Illinois."

Before switching to the Democratic party last week, Specter was the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. After 28 years in the Senate as a Republican, Specter had gained considerable influence on important committees. By allowing him to maintain some authority, the Democrats are giving Specter an edge, in one respect, over any political challengers he may face in next year's elections.

Durbin will also maintain a leadership role by chairing the human rights and the law subcommittee, which will be re-established in the Judiciary Committee.