Skip to comments.Abortion Remark by G.O.P. Senator Puts Heat on Peers
Posted on 11/05/2004 8:32:31 PM PST by Pokey78
WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 - Angry conservatives flooded Senate phone and fax lines on Friday demanding that Republicans prevent Senator Arlen Specter from presiding over the Judiciary Committee after he remarked that strongly anti-abortion judicial nominees might be rejected in the Senate.
Republican lawmakers and top Senate aides, speaking privately for the most part, said the uproar from the right was becoming an impediment for Mr. Specter, a Pennsylvania lawmaker who has coveted the chairmanship. They said while it was likely he would still get the post, it was no longer a certainty.
"He is not out of the woods,'' said one Senate aide who is closely monitoring developments on the Judiciary Committee, echoing a sentiment expressed by Republican senators and other party officials.
Most of those Republicans said they initially believed that Mr. Specter's subsequent clarification would protect him. Mr. Specter said he did not mean his remarks as a warning to Mr. Bush not to nominate to the Supreme Court a judge who would be inclined to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.
But the Republican officials said that continuing resistance to his taking the chairmanship of the committee that examines judicial nominees was being fanned by conservative talk radio hosts and groups outraged over his comments.
Lawmakers and aides said Mr. Specter's comments have touched a nerve because Democratic resistance to Mr. Bush's judicial nominees was a key element of Republican election campaigns and a likely factor in the defeat of Senator Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, in South Dakota. In addition, the expanded Republican Senate majority is strongly anti-abortion.
The outpouring illustrated how the party's conservative wing has been emboldened by the White House victory and the strengthening of Republican majorities in Congress, potentially raising new hazards for moderate Republicans who might want to break from the president or House and Senate leadership on major issues.
Some Republicans on Capitol Hill said the attempt to quickly exert that influence could work in Mr. Specter's favor. They said that after an energizing election, senators would not necessarily want their first action to be jettisoning Mr. Specter under pressure from outside groups. "We need to show some discipline and not overreact,'' one said.
The initial comments by Mr. Specter on Wednesday, at a news conference, that it would be unlikely for staunch opponents of abortion to be confirmed for the Supreme Court, came after Mr. Bush campaigned hard for Mr. Specter, a backer of abortion rights, to win a primary challenge against a conservative lawmaker and opponent of abortion.
But in subsequent interviews, he said that his remark at the news conference merely stated an obvious political fact: that just as Democrats had filibustered judicial nominees before, they could expected to do so again, and that Mr. Bush was aware of this.
"I did not warn the president about anything and was very respectful of his constitutional authority," he said in a written statement on Thursday, adding that he would apply no "litmus test" on abortion.
In interviews, Mr. Specter said he did not believe his chairmanship was in jeopardy. "I voted for every one of President Bush's nominees in the committee and on the floor, every last one of them,'' said Mr. Specter. He has been contacting his colleagues in an effort to calm the situation.
Mr. Specter's status as potential chairman was the subject of discussion on Thursday during a telephone conference call among Senate Republican leaders, who expressed concern about his remarks. Republicans will return to the Capitol the week after next to begin reorganizing for the coming session and could address the matter then.
The chairmanship is subject to a vote by the members of the committee and then ratified by all Senate Republicans, who almost always follow seniority in deciding committee leadership. The current chairman, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, is reaching his six-year term limit. Mr. Specter is next in line, followed by Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.
Given their new 55-to-45 majority, Republicans also want to increase their numerical advantage on the Judiciary Committee, giving them more leverage to move judicial nominees. With that power, some Republicans said it would be counterproductive to then have a chairman who might balk at some of the president's choices.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a member of the panel, said he anticipated "healthy discussion'' about Mr. Specter's comments.
"The original comments attributed to Senator Specter were very unnerving,'' said Mr. Graham, who also said Republicans should not endorse a "litmus test'' that they would not accept from Democrats. "His statement clarifying his position is reassuring, and I hope we will work our way through this.''
But the conservative groups were not mollified. The Concerned Women of America planned a news conference critical of Mr. Specter on Saturday in Pennsylvania, and Michael Schwartz, the group's vice president for government relations, said his organization would continue to press the case against the lawmaker.
"It is clear to me that with this statement and his past record of performance, Senator Specter has disqualified himself from any right to be considered as chairman of the Judiciary Committee,'' Mr. Schwartz said.
A message distributed electronically by the Family Research Council urged its supporters to call Senate leaders and committee members to lobby against Mr. Specter. "He has a history of pandering to the aggressive abortion lobby, and a Specter chairmanship would be disastrous,'' the group said.
Senate offices said the response was intense. "We are getting slammed,'' said Mike Brumas, a spokesman for Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama and a panel member. "Some of them are saying things like they voted for values on Tuesday and this is a slap in the face.''
An aide to Senator John Cornyn of Texas, another Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said the office was getting several calls a minute, a volume equal to the calls during consideration of the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Democrats say they fear that the Bush administration intends to use its second term to nominate judges interested in striking down abortion laws. They view the fight surrounding Mr. Specter as a strong indication that their concerns are warranted.
"I think Senator Specter is right and the fact that there was a negative reaction to his remarks is not a good omen,'' said Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois.
Keep him off. Give him another chairmanship. If that doesn't work, expel him from the caucus and tell him to sell his road apples to the Dems.
Judiciary is too important and we do NOT need an obstructionist RINO chairman running it.
So, an "uproar" has made an impact? What kind of uproar can I as an individual continue to help make? If I want to add my voice to the uproar, who do I call, fax, email, etc?
The NYT should understand good theatre...
Senator Arlen Specter: Character inspration for the Hackman drag queen scene in The Birdcage.
Notice that the New York Slimes no longer assumes that the abortion card will be useful for their agenda. They're all excited at the prospect of a Republican food fight, but they also understand that President Bush was re-elected largely by the votes of people who are pro-life.
That includes not only the Catholics who voted for him rather than the so-called Catholic Kerry, but the Evangelicals who came out in large numbers on election day.
For years the media have loved to pretend that abortion is a done deal, that the great majority of the country supports it, and that anyone who runs on a pro-life position will lose. That simply isn't true, and it's now obvious that it isn't true. The media mask is slipping.
I do believe they are worried. I've never seen them take this kind of stance on abortion before.
This RINO Specter shouldn't be Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Bush and the Republican Senate should fight as hard as possible to appoint as many hardcore conservatives as possible. If Bush has the chance to appoint three then they should all be far right conservatives. Let's give the liberals a taste of their own medicine.
I wasn't going to bother calling but I will now. It seems like it may actually be worth it as they might actually be listening for once.
I love the way the story tries to blame the convervatives that are on talk radio and such. I'm sure the writer would have included the pajamahadeen, but I think they (Old Media) are reluctant to even admit that we are out here because they are afraid that we will become stronger if it is acknowledged that "we" could affect what happens on Capitol Hill.
I also thought it was funny how they are trying to spin it to where it could backfire if we became to pushy, so to speak.
I just think we need to remind the Senators, Democrat and Republican, who actually votes for them. It isn't the media, and even they don't have enough "friends" that would bring enough votes.
No you need to stop acting like the minority party , get a backbone, and grow a pair ! Arlen is a RINO and a backstabber! It took him less than 48 hours (post election victory and MANDATE) to piss on President Bush and tell him that, "no it's not me it's raining outside-honest".
Isn't Charles Grassley of Iowa being suggested for the same seat? Is there any way way to juggle around the assignments to assure that Arlen Specter does NOT get this chairmanship?
It won't be republicans who deny Specter the chairmanship... it will be God who denies him that position because Specter IS pro-abortion. It's no longer about what Specter said after election day... It's about his true position.
From post: " senators would not necessarily want their first action to be jettisoning Mr. Specter under pressure from outside groups."
Outside groups? Does that mean Senate Repubs. have formed their own group - and they will do what they want - and the Repub. citizens should stay out of it -
What a Senate - becoming so out of touch (of course we saw that with the Clinton mess) - So I guess it's really nothing new for them -
Exactly. Take no prisoners. The prisoners always bite.
A large outcry does wonders. The left does it often. The right has been too polite. But it's time.
Laura Ingraham is in the forefront of the "Bork Specter" movement! After all, she worked in the DOJ when he Borked Bork! Go Laura GO!
What does this say about Senator Specter?
Call your senators. They're listed.
Well I am going to do all I can to keep the sob from being Chairman.
Should the powers that be in the Republican Party choose to ignore the thousands like myself, well there is another election coming in 2006 and what is fair for the goose is fair for the gander.
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