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November 5, 2004
A Spectre in the Senate

Remarks made yesterday by Senator Arlen Specter, who is in line to become the new Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, have disturbed conservatives and offered hope to abortion advocates. Here is a portion of the transcript via NRO:

JORDAN: Senator, you didn't talk about the Judiciary Committee, it is something you are expected to Chair this January. With 3 Supreme Court Justices rumored to retire soon, starting with Rehnquist, how do you see this unfolding in the next couple of months and what part do you intend to play on it?

SPECTER: You know my approach is cautious with respect to the Judiciary Committee. I am in line, Senator Hatch is barred now by term limits and Senate Rules so that I am next in line. There has to be a vote of the Committee and I have already started to talk to some of my fellow committee members. I am respectful of Senate traditions, so I am not designating myself Chairman, I will wait for the Senate procedures to act in do course. You are right on the substance, the Chief Justice is gravely ill. I had known more about that than had appeared in the media. When he said he was going to be back on Monday, it was known inside that he was not going to be back on Monday. The full extent of his full incapacitation is really not known, I believe there will be cause for deliberation by the President. The Constitution has a clause called advise and consent, the advise part is traditionally not paid a whole lot of attention to, I wouldn't quite say ignored, but close to that. My hope that the Senate will be more involved in expressing our views. We start off with the basic fact that the Democrats are have filibustered and expect them to filibuster if the nominees are not within the broad range of acceptability. I think there is a very broad range of Presidential Discretion but there is a range.

ODOM: Is Mr. Bush, he just won the election, even with the popular vote as well. If he wants anti-abortion judges up there, you are caught in the middle of it what are you going to do? The party is going one way and you are saying this.

SPECTER: When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v Wade, I think that is unlikely. And I have said that bluntly during the course of the campaign and before. When the Inquirer endorsed me, they quoted my statement that Roe v Wade was inviolate. And that 1973 decision, which has been in effect now for 33 years, was buttressed by the 1992 decision, written by three Republican justices-O'Conner, Souter, and Kennedy-and nobody can doubt Anthony Kennedy's conservativism or pro-life position, but that's the fabric of the country. Nobody can be confirmed today who didn't agree with Brown v. Board of Education on integration, and I believe that while you traditionally do not ask a nominee how they're going to decide a specific case, there's a doctorate and a fancy label term, stari decisis, precedent which I think protects that issue. That is my view, now, before, and always.

ODOM: You are saying the President should not bother to send somebody up there like that.

SPECTER: Can't hear you

ODOM: You are saying the President should not bother or make the move to send somebody up there who is clearly anti-abortion.

SPECTER: I don't want to prejudge what the President is going to do. But the President is well aware of what happened when a number of his nominees were sent up, were filibustered, and the President has said he is not going to impose a litmus test, he faced that issue squarely in the third debate and I would not expect the President, I would expect the President to be mindful of the considerations that I mentioned.

These comments gave immediate cheer to the left, according to the New York Times:

Abortion rights advocates, feeling beleaguered after Senator John Kerry's loss to Mr. Bush, said they were encouraged by Mr. Specter's remarks.

"Welcome back, Senator Specter," said Elizabeth Cavendish, interim president of Naral Pro-Choice America, in a reference to what she views as the senator's recent efforts to distance himself from abortion rights. She called his remarks "an important statement to the president that he should not interpret the election results as a mandate to take away fundamental freedoms."

Fundamental freedoms? Its been a few years since Ive read Roe v. Wade, but I seem to recall the issue was decided on penumbras or some such nonsense. (Law students: feel free to correct me if Ive misstated the clarity of the decision.) The Kathryn Jean Lopez encouraged NRO readers to call and write their senators and lobby against Senator Specters rise to chairmanship:

I think that transcript emphasizes Specter does not have the conservative temperment or instincts to be judiciary chairman. Why, after yesterday's victory, would the majority party put in place such a huge obstacle, just because of tradition?

Is this an overreaction? Consider the following statement made by Senator Specter after the press conference:

"Contrary to press accounts, I did not warn the President about anything and was very respectful of his Constitutional authority on the appointment of federal judges.

"As the record shows, I have supported every one of President Bushs nominees in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor. I have never and would never apply any litmus test on the abortion issue and, as the record shows, I have voted to confirm Chief Justice Rehnquist, Justice OConnor, and Justice Kennedy and led the fight to confirm Justice Thomas.

Certainly, the prepared statement was reasonable and tone-appropriate. But the remarks made off the cuff indicate he is willing to adopt Senator Kerrys abortion litmus test into the committee process.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Whiskey at November 5, 2004 6:39 AM

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» Forgiveness from The Cassandra Page
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