Published May 07, 2009
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy slammed the brakes Thursday on Sen. Dick Durbin's decision to give up his Judiciary subcommittee chairmanship and offer it to party-switcher Sen. Arlen Specter.
"We need to work out something. Nothing's been worked out," Leahy said after Durbin, the majority whip, volunteered to give up his chairmanship of the crime subcommittee and announced a new Human Rights Subcommittee for him to lead.
"Oh, he's now chairman?" Leahy said with anger about Durbin. "This is great."
Leahy added that the judiciary panel has to work out funding for the new subcommittee if it is indeed to be created. He said he has to "think about it over the weekend and consult with Republicans."
In the end, it appeared as if Leahy was angry that Durbin staffers leaked the news to a Capitol Hill newspaper and put out a release before the chairman could announce the news about his own committee. Several aides to the committee say all will be well. Leahy and his top Republican, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, are expected to make the switch official sometime soon.
The crime panel, the Judiciary Committee's busiest subcommittee, is responsible for legislation on drug sentencing and violence against women, and oversight of the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, Secret Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Drug Enforcement Administration, among others.
Durbin's move was designed to placate Republican-turned-Democrat Specter after Democrats failed to honor his 28 years of seniority on committees. Democrats hope to keep Specter's Pennsylvania Senate seat in next year's elections.
Specter told reporters Thursday that he didn't agree with Reid's suggestion that he would be with Democrats on all procedural votes.
Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, told FOX News that the Senate leader was merely "hopeful and optimistic" and that "Sen. Reid never takes any votes for granted."
Durbin and Specter both say they talked to Leahy as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about the move before they announced it.. Durbin added that even if the new subcommittee is not created, he will still turn over the subcommittee reins to Specter.
"I have offered the gavel of the Crime and Drugs Subcommittee to Senator Specter, who has been a leader on criminal justice issues for decades. As I have discussed with Senator Leahy and Senator Specter, I will continue to play a significant role on issues within the subcommittee's jurisdiction -- especially those affecting Illinois," Durbin said.
FOX News' Trish Turner contributed to this report.