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Specter's seniority

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Sen. Arlen Specter, who was elected in 1980, would outrank the most senior Democrat on four of his six current committee assignments: Veterans Affairs (Akaka), Environment and Public Works (Boxer), Special on Aging (Kohl) and an Appropriations subcommittee (Harkin).

But, per NBC Senate producer Ken Strickland, this whole issue won't be addressed until the next Congress -- unless any current chairs want to voluntarily step aside for Specter.

And it's not clear which ones, if any, he'd take over in the next Congress. It would all have to be sorted out. But he's clearly going to want something -- notably the powerful Appropriations Committee, per Strickland, but there's a long line of senior Democrats there. And it's competitive.

Specter, a veritable spring chicken at 79 on this committee, would only be the fourth-ranking senator on it. Hawaii's Daniel Inouye, 85 and elected in 1962, knocked off 91-year-old Robert Byrd at the start of this Congress -- despite Byrd's seniority (elected in 1958). Also ahead of Specter is Pat Leahy, elected in 1974. Leahy's also ahead of Specter, by the way, where he shines -- on Judiciary.

Here's how Specter measures up on his current assignments with the current Democrats:
-- Appropriations: Current Chair: Inouye, elected in 1962
-- Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human -- Services, and Education: Current Chair: Tom Harkin, elected 1984
-- Committee on the Judiciary: Current Chair: Leahy, elected 1974
-- Committee on Veterans' Affairs: Current Chair: Daniel Akaka, appointed May 1990.
-- Committee on Environment and Public Works: Current Chair: Barbara Boxer, elected 1992
-- Special Committee on Aging: Herb Kohl, elected in 1988