- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004


Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, wants to make his case to be chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee directly to the panel’s Republican members next week.

Conservative groups want senators to pass over Mr. Specter for the chairmanship because of his pro-choice views, his postelection comment that pro-life judges would be unlikely to be confirmed by the Senate and his role in blocking past conservative nominees such as Robert Bork.

Mr. Specter has been calling and meeting with senators individually to assure them that he wouldn’t personally block Bush nominees from votes by the full Senate.

The senator now wants to go in front of the party’s Judiciary Committee members in a private meeting next week, said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and a committee member.

“I expect we’ll sit down with him and hear what his plans are to support the president and his nominees,” Mr. Cornyn said yesterday. “The ball’s in Senator Specter’s court to satisfy the Republicans on the committee and in the Republican conference.”

The Republican committee members get the first vote on whether Mr. Specter will replace Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, who is stepping down as chairman because of party-imposed term limits. Whatever decision they make can be appealed to the full Republican caucus later.

It was not known whether Mr. Hatch agreed to call the meeting or when it would be held.

Mr. Cornyn, who met with Mr. Specter privately on Tuesday, said he also expected Mr. Specter to make some type of public announcement or assurance to confirm what he has been telling senators privately.

“I know that private conversations are sometimes remembered differently in the future,” Mr. Cornyn said. “That’s why it’s important to memorialize things in a public fashion where everybody’s clear on what the understanding is.”

A public statement also would help senators who are being flooded with calls and e-mails from pro-life groups.

“I have a responsibility to them to tell them this is why I voted to support Senator Specter’s chairmanship,” Mr. Cornyn said.

If those things happen, “I think he is likely to be confirmed,” the Texan said.

Conservative groups have announced plans to protest Mr. Specter’s prospective chairmanship at the Capitol next week and are working to turn votes and the Senate leadership against him.

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said the president’s judicial nominees face a “difficult Senate Judiciary Committee if Senator Arlen Specter is elevated to the chairmanship.”

No Republican senator has opposed Mr. Specter publicly, and several have come to his defense.

Sen. Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, offered his support yesterday, saying Mr. Specter “has a good case to make for why he should be chairman.”

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