Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., says he did not know until late Tuesday about a move to strip Senator Arlen Specter, D-Pa., of his seniority.
"I just heard the resolution last night," Leahy told reporters this morning before a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs. "That was the first I'd heard of that," he added. Leahy did not say whether he agrees with the move.
On a voice vote last night, the Senate approved a resolution that makes Specter the most junior Democrat on the committees he serves on. That includes the Judiciary Committee, which he once chaired. When Specter left the Republican Party last week, he and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said that Democrats would treat Specter as if he had always been a Democrat.
The change would give Specter a lower profile during the confirmation hearing for Justice David Souter's successor on the Supreme Court.
Leahy's comments this morning indicate that Democratic leaders decided on a reversal only recently, after Specter took several high-profile stances contrary to his new party. Specter voted against the Democrats' budget outline last week, he announced he would oppose Dawn Johnsen, the nominee for assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel, and, in an interview with The New York Times Magazine, he appeared to endorse Republican Norm Coleman in the legal battle for one of Minnesota's Senate seats.
"I'm just glad Senator Specter's on the committee," Leahy added. "He's a very valued senator."