Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania will take over chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee’s crime subcommittee. Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois gave up the chairmanship to accommodate Specter, who changed political parties last week. The crime panel, formerly headed by Vice President Joe Biden, is the Judiciary Committee’s busiest subcommittee. The Washington Post reports that Durbin will take over a newly restored human rights subcommittee, which was dissolved at the beginning of the current Congress.
Specter, a former prosecutor, has a long history of legislating in the crime area. He was responsible for the Armed Career Criminal Act in the early 1980s, and was a champion of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The Senate move is aimed at placating Specter after Democrats did not honor his 28 years of seniority on committees. Democrats hope to retain Specter’s Senate seat in next year’s elections.