Arlen Specter Continues to Backpedal From Abortion-Judges Comments

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 7, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Arlen Specter Continues to Backpedal From Abortion-Judges Comments Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 7, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Pro-abortion Republican Senator Arlen Specter continues to backpedal from comments he made last week suggesting that it was "unlikely" that he would allow pro-life judicial appointees to move forward should he become the next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Despite his personal opinion in favor of abortion, Specter told CBS’s "Face the Nation" news program on Sunday that he has voted in favor of judicial picks who are pro-life.

"The fact is that I have supported all of President Bush’s nominees in committee and on the floor. I have never applied a litmus test," Specter said. "Although I am pro-choice, I have supported many pro-life nominees."

Part of Specter’s comments last week related to expected filibusters that leading abortion advocates in the Senate used to derail several nominations of key pro-life appointees to federal appeals courts.

"If you want to pass something legislatively you’ve got to get 60 votes in the Senate — that means you have to reach out to Democrats," Specter said on the "Face the Nation" program.

Meanwhile, chief Bush political advisor Karl Rove said the White House is confident that Senator Specter will give every Bush judicial nominee a prompt hearing and an up-or-down vote.

With Republicans having a numerical advantage over Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, Bush’s nominees are expected to make it out of committee unless Specter opposes them.

"Senator Specter’s a man of his word. We’ll take him at his word," Rove said on "Fox News Sunday."

Pro-life groups have rallied heavily in opposition to Specter’s assuming the top spot on the important Senate committee in light of his comments.

While it is likely Specter will still be anointed chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee by virtue of his seniority, it’s no longer a certainty.

"He is not out of the woods,” one Senate aide who is closely monitoring developments told the New York Times.

According to comments from others closely associated with the Senate, Specter’s comments backpedaling from and clarifying his initial remarks appear to have soothed the fears of Senate insiders who are concerned he would block Bush’s nominees.

Pro-life Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, told the New York Times he expected a "healthy discussion" of Specter’s comments.

"The original comments attributed to Senator Specter were very unnerving," Graham said. However, Graham added, "His statement clarifying his position is reassuring, and I hope we will work our way through this.”

Specter is also helped by a general unwillingness in the Senate to buck the seniority precedent. The last time an expected chairman of a Senate committee faced a vote challenging his ascension to the spot, in 1987, the vote failed.

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.

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.

"I have never and would never apply any litmus test on the abortion issue," Specter added.