by Steven Ertelt
November 5, 2004
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — After generating national controversy with comments to President Bush urging him not to appoint judges to the Supreme Court who oppose abortion, pro-abortion Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter said on Thursday that new reports misrepresented his views.
At a news conference Tuesday, Specter was asked what he would do as the likely next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee if Bush sent pro-life judicial nominations to the Senate for confirmation.
"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. He then went on to describe his own views in favor of the high court decision in 1973 that allowed virtually unlimited abortions.
In a followup question a reporter asked Specter whether the president "should not bother" sending clearly pro-life nominees to the Senate. Specter said, "the President is well aware of what happened when a number of his nominees were sent up, were filibustered."
"I would expect the President to be mindful of the considerations that I mentioned," the senator added.
The comments generated a firestorm of controversy with pro-life groups calling for his removal as incoming chairman and they generated a flood of complaints to his office.
However, on Thursday, Specter said press accounts ascribing to him the view that Bush should not nominate pro-life judges to the Supreme Court were in error.
"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," Specter said in a statement.
"As the record shows, I have supported every one of President Bush’s nominees in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor. I have never and would never apply any litmus test on the abortion issue," Specter added.
The pro-abortion Republican said he pledges to have Judicial Committee hearings on any Bush nominee for the courts within 30 days of the nomination. He added that he remains concerned about the "repeated filibusters by the Democrats in the last Senate session."
The controversy could put Specter’s chairmanship in jeopardy. Normally, senators ascend to a chairmanship of a committee by virtue of their seniority. However, the now 55 member Republican caucus could vote to strip him of the title and appoint someone else to lead the committee.
Such moves are rarely executed and often fail because most senators do not favor toppling the seniority system.