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Specter Says He Expects Seniority to Be Restored

Embattled Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter asserted Tuesday afternoon that he had an “absolute commitment” from Majority Leader Harry Reid that his seniority would be restored at the start of the next Congress, assuming he survives Tuesday’s bruising Democratic primary and manages to win a sixth term in November.

Specter, who has been losing ground to Democratic challenger Rep. Joe Sestak in recent days according to numerous polls, made the comments on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on Tuesday afternoon, just hours before polls were set to close in Pennsylvania. The veteran lawmaker was stripped of his seniority status on committees last spring when — faced with the probability of a formidable Republican primary rematch against former Rep. Pat Toomey — he left the Republican Party to seek re-election as a Democrat.

But Specter’s comments do not appear to comport with what Reid has said publicly about Specter’s seniority status in the 112th Congress. On the day in April 2009 that Specter announced he would switch parties, Reid indicated Specter would retain his seniority. But days later, amid blowback from Democrats angry that they might be bumped behind a new member of the party, Reid said decisions about seniority would “be up to the caucus,” and Specter was deemed the most junior Democrat on the committees on which he served. At the time, Reid insisted that his later comments were not a departure from his original stance, saying he and Specter agreed that the Pennsylvanian’s overall status in the Senate — for the purposes of things like office space and desk location — would be maintained.

Reid appeared to hedge his bets on the primary outcome Tuesday when he said Democrats had “two good candidates,” adding that both he and President Barack Obama had done everything in their power to help Specter’s re-election campaign.

“We’ll just have to wait and see how that vote turns out,” Reid said. “We believe that Pennsylvania remains a strong Democratic state.”

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