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Specter Finds Comfort Zone

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Sen. Arlen Specter, seen at a memorial service for the late Rep. John Murtha, has fit in comfortably with his new colleagues in the Democratic caucus and has kept friends on the GOP side.

“He’s been just wonderful to work with,” Durbin added. “He’s been an active member of our caucus. I mean, there was not much of a learning curve there. Arlen fit right in.”

Switching parties cost Specter his ranking position on Judiciary and a chance to be at the forefront when Obama nominated now-Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Specter was sent to the back of the seniority line among committee Democrats, although the Senator said he expects that issue to be revisited.

Specter said he doesn’t miss the limelight that came with his former status as a moderate Republican, although he didn’t sound overly convincing, hesitating for a moment before finally settling on a simple “no” when asked.

Specter, a former GOP Judiciary chairman who a few years back helped shepherd Bush’s two Supreme Court nominees across a Democratic minefield, insisted he was just as effective during the Sotomayor confirmation hearings as he might have been as a senior member of the minority.

Specter’s work product and approach to vetting judicial nominees has not changed since he switched parties, said both Republicans and Democrats who serve on Judiciary, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) included.

“The seniority issue’s not over yet. There’s more coming on that,” Specter said. “But at the time [of the Sotomayor hearings], I spontaneously said, ‘It’s not a matter of where you sit, it’s a matter of what you say.’ I played a pretty important role when I was sitting way down the line” during nomination hearings in years past, “and I had a pretty prominent role in Sotomayor even though I was way down the line.”

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