Arlen Specter Meets With Republicans After Abortion Flap, May Become Chairman

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 15, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Arlen Specter Meets With Republicans After Abortion Flap, May Become Chairman

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 15, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Arlen Specter met with Senate Republicans on Tuesday in a closed-door session that may have won him enough support to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Pro-life advocates have waged a furious last-minute campaign to prevent that from happening following Specter’s post-election comments that made it appear he would oppose President Bush’s pro-life judicial picks.

Specter met for more than an hour today with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and other top Republicans and had a second meeting scheduled with Republican members of the judicial panel.

The pro-abortion Pennsylvania Republican emerged from the meeting with Frist with a smile on his face. The two shook hands as reporters watched.

Although nothing is official, Specter appeared to gain considerable ground following the meetings.

"I’m not making any predictions," Specter said after the meeting with Frist. "Any
statement will have to be made by people other than me."

"I never count any chickens before they hatch," Specter added.

Frist, who said in weekend interviews that Specter would need to pledge to support Bush’s nominees, would not say whether he has decided to support the Pennsylvania senator.

On Wednesday, Specter will meet with the entire Senate Republican caucus, which will decide whether he will chair the key judicial panel.

However, several Republican senators have made public their support for Specter’s taking the Judicial Committee gavel.

Senator Robert Bennett of Utah, the chief deputy majority whip, Trent Lott of Mississippi, Richard Lugar of Indiana and Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander joined Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, who spoke with reporters yesterday, declaring their support for Specter.

"I think he has earned it," Lott told Reuters. "I’m a pretty conservative guy. But I’m also a pragmatist and I think it would be a mistake for him not to be chairman."

"I think he’d be an asset. When he comes to the floor to speak on behalf of a Bush nominee — maybe a conservative, maybe a pro-lifer — it will carry real weight," Lott added.

Still, some senators such as Jeff Sessions of Alabama and George Allen of Virginia want a pledge from Specter that he will solidly support the president’s judicial nominees — something Specter has repeatedly said as he backpedalled from his post-election remarks.

Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican and member of the Judiciary Committee, told the Washington Times Specter "will be asked for assurances."

"I wish to be assured that he will support the president’s nominees," added Senator Allen, who sat in on the Frist meeting.