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The Tally Ho

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Arlen Specter to Bush White House

Arlen Specter, who is about to become the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had a few things to tell the Bush White House
PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Republican expected to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee next year bluntly warned newly re-elected President Bush on Wednesday against putting forth Supreme Court nominees who would seek to overturn abortion rights or are otherwise too conservative to win confirmation.

Sen. Arlen Specter, fresh from winning a fifth term in Pennsylvania, also said the current Supreme Court now lacks legal "giants" on the bench.

"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 bunch 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."...

...Legal scholar Dennis Hutchinson said Specter's message to the White House appears to be "a way of asserting his authority" as he prepares to chair the Judiciary Committee when Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is term-limited from keeping the post next year.

"What he may be trying to do is say, 'Don't just think that I'm going to process what you send through. I have standards, I'm going to take an independent look, you have to deal with me,'" said Hutchinson, a law professor at the University of Chicago...

...While Specter is a loyal Republican Bush endorsed him in a tight Pennsylvania GOP primary he routinely crosses party lines to pass legislation and counts a Democrat, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, as one of his closest friends.

A self-proclaimed moderate, he helped kill President Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court and of Jeff Sessions to a federal judgeship. Specter called both nominees too extreme on civil rights issues. Sessions later became a Republican senator from Alabama and now sits on the Judiciary Committee with Specter.

Despite a bruising challenge from conservatives this year in Pennsylvania Republican primary, Specter won re-election Tuesday by a hefty 11-point margin by appealing to moderate Republicans and ticket-splitting Democrats as Pennsylvania narrowly voted for Democrat John Kerry over Bush.

A former district attorney, Specter also bemoaned what he called the lack of any current justices comparable to legal heavyweights like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo and Thurgood Marshall, "who were giants of the Supreme Court."

"With all due respect to the (current) U.S. Supreme Court, we don't have one," he said.

One thing that I couldn't decide is why the White House backed Mr. Specter instead of the ultra conservative Mr. Toomey. At first I thought it was more due to their desire to win Pennsylvania. Mr. Toomey probably would have lost the Senate seat to Hoeffel - thus probably hurting Bush's chances at PA overall. Or, by backing Sen. Specter, it gives the Bush Administration to convenient excuse to why right wing judges did not end up on the Supreme Court (also Specter's legacy). Thus, allowing the conservative movement to keep getting their voters out on abortion and other cultural issues. So, does that sound crazy.

I would be interested to hear what Jen expects from a Specter chaired Judiciary.

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