The Unacceptable Arlen Specter

November 5, 2004
Volume 6 / Number 34

Dear Colleague:

Almost any Republican senator, and certainly any other Republican senator currently serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee, would be an acceptable Judiciary Committee chairman.  Arlen Specter, who has hinted at future Borkings of pro-life Supreme Court nominees, is not.

Steven W. Mosher

The Unacceptable Arlen Specter

Every Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee would make a fine committee chairman except one.  And that one is slated to become chairman in January.  This man rescued the unconstitutional and anti-life Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade (1973) by stridently opposing the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987, though Bork was a highly qualified jurist appointed by a President from this man's own party.  This man has consistently promoted abortion-on-demand and other radically unconstitutional legal theories.  He threatened to vote against two of the current President Bush's pro-life Catholic judicial nominees.  He consistently criticizes judicial decisions based on law instead of elite liberal opinion on everything from abortion to tuition vouchers for parochial schools.  He favors gay rights.  Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania should not be chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It's not that his fellow Senate Republicans want Specter to be their Judiciary chairman.  Seniority rules put him next in line after term limits force current chairman Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) to step down.  Sen. Chuck Grassley (R.-Iowa), who actually has seniority over Specter, is already chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.  If Grassley won't give up Finance for Judiciary-and indications are that he won't-Senate Republicans can vote to override seniority or waive the term limit on Hatch.  Alternatively, they or President Bush could offer Specter a different post where he would do less harm, or even some good.  He has a strong record on several issues important to Republicans, but they don't include legal interpretation or life.

Specter didn't waste any time sticking it rhetorically to President Bush and to the pro-lifers who were essential to the President's re-election and to the expansion of the GOP's Senate majority by four.  AP reported November 4 that Specter said of future Supreme Court nominees, 'When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely,' Specter said, referring to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.  ‘The President is well aware of what happened, when a number of his nominees were sent up, with the filibuster,' Specter added, referring to Senate Democrats' success over the past four years in blocking the confirmation of many of Bush's conservative judicial picks.  ‘. . .And I would expect the President to be mindful of the considerations which I am mentioning.'  Perhaps realizing that he's not chairman yet, Specter issued a clarification of his remarks the next day but withdrew nothing.

Specter's stab at Bush and the pro-life movement came despite the tremendous help he received from Bush and his fellow Pennsylvania GOP senator, pro-life champion Rick Santorum, in getting re-elected this year.  He barely fended off a primary challenge from pro-life Rep. Pat Toomey (R.-Pa.), relying on crucial endorsements and campaigning from Bush and Santorum.  In the general election, Specter didn't seem to care much about helping Bush win the state, refusing to appear with Vice President Cheney at a campaign event a week before the election.  And, wrote Tim Carney on NRO this week, Most striking were the ‘Kerry and Specter for Working Families' signs posted around southeastern Pennsylvania.  Was the culprit some particularly ambitious freelance ticket-splitter?  The signs were created, paid for, and posted by a 527 created by Roger Stone, chairman of Specter's 1996 presidential campaign.

So what do Bush and the Republican establishment owe Specter?  Bush likes to say that he favors judges who hold to strict interpretation of the law.  He and anyone else who favors the rule of law rather than steadily increasing judicial tyranny, not to mention party unity in supporting the President, should be opposed to making Specter the Senate's chief judge of Bush's judicial nominees.  Specter's judicial philosophy is so activist, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.), one of the most aggressively liberal and pro-abortion opponents of Bush's judges, once recommended Specter for a seat on the Supreme Court.  He put Specter at the head of a list he offered Bush in a June 10, 2003 letter: While there are scores of Democrats whom I would hope you would consider, I am offering only individuals who either are Republicans or have previously been nominated by Republican presidents.  The candidates I would advise you to consider are: The Honorable Arlen Specter, Republican senator from Pennsylvania. . . .

Specter, 74, was just re-elected and will probably never have to face the voters again.  He won't need any more help from Bush, Santorum, or the Republican fund-raising machine.  He is free to follow his conscience, which he likely will.  Republican senators, if they are truly concerned about protecting life and the rule of law, should do the same and keep Specter out of the chairman's chair.

Joseph A. D'Agostino is Vice President for Communications at the Population Research Institute.

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