By Patrick Yoest
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--It appears Sen. Arlen Specter's planned party switch will restore his electoral safety but won't, at least according to a Senate colleague, come with the trappings of a chairmanship.
Specter, R-Pa., who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee before Republicans lost control of Congress in 2007, will retain his seniority when he migrates from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. His nearly three decades in the Senate will catapult him above other Democrats on several committees.
But although that means he now has the seniority to chair the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, he apparently won't assume the subcommittee gavel.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who currently chairs the panel, said Tuesday that he has no plan to relinquish control. And he says he has the backing of party leadership.
"I talked to [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid], and he assured me that nothing's changed and I will continue to maintain my chairmanship," Harkin said.
Earlier in the day, Reid said that Specter "knows that no one will be dumped off of a full committee or a subcommittee, unless it's done on some voluntary basis," but noted that Democratic senators would have an opportunity to choose a new chair for the Appropriations panel if they maintain their majority in 2011.
But Harkin said he later received assurances from Reid that Specter's party change "would not jeopardize my position whatsoever," even in a new Congress.
When asked about the issue Tuesday, Specter said "we haven't worked that out yet."
Specter won't have an opportunity to regain the Judiciary chairmanship. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the current chairman of that committee, entered the Senate in 1975 - six years before Specter.
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