Specter gets a sop from Reid, Durbin; Update: Reid fumbles again?

A day after getting an epic snub from the Senate Democratic Caucus, Arlen Specter got a hastily-arranged Welcome Wagon gift from Harry Reid and Dick Durbin.  Having had his deal with Specter rejected unanimously by his caucus, Reid prevailed on his lieutenant to cough up a plum subcommittee chair position for the newly-minted Pennsylvania Democrat.  The world’s oldest rookie pronounced himself pleased:

Senate Democratic leaders have reached agreement with Sen. Arlen Specter to partially restore the party switcher’s status on the Judiciary Committee, by granting Specter the chairmanship of the Crime and Drugs Subcommittee.

Under the deal, which Senate Democratic aides outlined this morning, Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) would give up the gavel of the prestigious post, which holds jurisdiction over most Justice Department activities. Durbin would take over a newly restored human rights subcommittee, which was dissolved at the beginning of the current 111th Congress because none of the committee members were available to run it.

It won’t, however, restore any of his seniority elsewhere, including on the full Judiciary Committee itself.  Specter will still be last in line to question the upcoming nominee for the open Supreme Court slot vacated by David Souter.  He still goes to the back of the line everywhere else, but now has a consolation prize — and a fairly significant, if singular, one.

Why did Durbin give up this “prestigious post,” as Shailagh Murray rightly calls it?  Reid and Durbin apparently worried how Specter would react if he didn’t get something for his switch.  They didn’t want to risk having an “angry former Republican” in the middle of Barack Obama’s Supreme moment in the coming weeks.  This move allows everyone to save a little face after a disastrous fumble by Reid.

Update: Could Reid fumble this ball twice?  Yes, he can! Pat Leahy has publicly rebuked both Reid and Durbin for promising the seat without checking first with him (via Brian Faughnan on Twitter):

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Thursday appeared to throw a little cold water on the Democratic leadership’s plan to give recent party-switcher Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) a plum subcommittee chairmanship.

Though Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) announced earlier in the day that he would relinquish the Crime and Drugs subpanel and take over a reconstituted Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, Leahy told reporters, “Nothing’s been worked out.” …

However, one Senate Democratic aide said Leahy is unlikely to deny Durbin — the No. 2 Senate Democrat — a gavel and that the chairman is probably just trying to get more funding for the committee so he doesn’t have to give up any of his chairman’s funds to create the new subcommittee.

Pass the popcorn, please.  And I thought Barack Obama was an amateur!