by Steven Ertelt
February 24, 2005
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Senator Arlen Specter wants to strike a deal with pro-abortion Democrats who oppose a slate of 20 pro-life judges President Bush recently gave to the Senate for confirmation. Specter is also concerned about the effects of the so-called "nuclear option" and instead wants to try his hand at dealmaking first.
Specter said Thursday he would "exercise every last ounce of my energy" to negotiate with Democrats on the judicial nominees.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has been considering the "nuclear option" which would allow a majority vote on changing Senate rules to lowering the number of votes necessary to stop filibusters or to prevent filibusters of judicial nominees altogether.
Specter doesn’t say he opposes that idea, but he is concerned about the loss of minority rights if the Senate adopts the rule change.
"If we have the nuclear option, the Senate will be in turmoil and the Judiciary Committee will be hell," Specter told reporters at a press conference.
"I prefer not to come to that bridge. I’m certainly not going to jump off of the bridge until I come to it," Specter said. "I’m going to exercise every last ounce of my energy to solve this problem without the nuclear option."
Specter says he is unsure whether Frist has the necessary 51 votes for the rules change. He also says Republicans could find themselves in the minority again someday and would possibly regret that kind of decision.
"I think historically if you were to flash ahead 100 years from now, this controversy over judges would be minuscule. It would not be a major matter in the life of the country. But minority rights are," Specter said.
Pro-life groups disagree and they say how the Senate handles judicial nominees is of significant importance — especially on the Supreme Court level — because the courts increasingly decide such thorny issue as abortion and assisted suicide.
Specter came under fire from pro-life groups when he was shooting for the chairmanship of the Senate judiciary committee. Eventually he promised to back Bush’s nominees and give them prompt hearings.
During the press conference, he referred to the promise but said what he does on the Senate floor might be different.
"I have a commitment to the president to give these nominees prompt hearings and to move promptly to get them out of committee and we will do that," Specter said. "When it comes to the floor, as you all know, it is another matter."
Specter also pointed to comments from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who promise to severely disrupt the Senate’s business if the rules are changed.
Hearings are expected to begin on the slate of federal appeals and district court nominees on March 1.