Something jumped out at me in Jonathan Singer's thread on Senator Arlen Specter's press conference announcing his party switch:
Update [2009-4-28 14:32:44 by Jonathan Singer]: Specter says that he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have agreed to respect his seniority as if he had been elected as a Democrat in 1980.
Update [2009-4-28 14:37:18 by Jonathan Singer]: On follow up, Specter indicates how this seniority issue plays out, specifically in terms of subcommittee chairmanships -- though from the grin on his face you have to get the sense that he is not coming to the Democratic caucus without the possibility of retaining some power.
Update [2009-4-28 14:43:50 by Todd Beeton]:Specter: "I'd be ahead of Senator Harkin." Implying that he would take over the chairmanship of the Health Sub-committee of Appropriations. Bullshit.
Harkin was first elected to the Senate in 1984. I have a call in to Harkin's office to find out what assurances he has received regarding his committee and subcommittee positions. As John Deeth wrote recently,
Senority, while not as all-important as it was before the 1970s, is still a big deal, determining committee assignments. Day of swearing in rules over all [...]
I find it hard to believe that Reid would strike a deal with Specter putting him ahead of Harkin, but this bears watching until we know for sure what Specter will get as a member of the Democratic caucus. I'll update this post when I hear more on this front.
Incidentally, Reid did the heavy lifting to talk Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont into leaving the Republican caucus in 2001. He spent considerable time lobbying Jeffords,
And when no other Democrat would offer up a committee chairmanship to Jeffords should he leave the Republicans, it was Reid who gave up what would have been a job helming the Environment and Public Works Committee.
That was a more earth-shattering switch, because it shifted control of the U.S. Senate from Republicans to Democrats.
The blogosphere is full of reaction to Specter's move today. Todd Beeton's review of some conservative blog commentaries was entertaining.
UPDATE: Harkin interviewed by MSNBC's David Shuster, "indicated that he'd spoken to Specter before he made the switch, said, 'Welcome, Arlen.'"
From NBC's Kelly O'Donnell:
NO CHAIRMANSHIP ON THE TABLE: Sources say Specter will not be given a chairmanship during this Congress, the 111th. For now, "chairmanships were not on the table" as a part of the party switch negotiations.