Politics & Policy

The Northeastern Liberal

Kerry and Specter, two peas in a pod.

The folks at Republican National Committee’s research department work pretty hard. They have reams and reams of dirt on the Democratic candidates, including the nominee-apparent John Kerry. One particularly ghoulish portrait they have of the senator from Massachusetts is a list on their website of some of his worst votes.

The RNC website shows that John Kerry has voted to gut the Bush tax cuts, extend “hate crimes” special treatment to homosexuals, keep cloning legal, block tort reform, kill school choice, cut defense spending, oppose parental-notification rules for minors getting abortions and sink the nomination of Judge Robert Bork.

With this catalogue of votes, the RNC makes Kerry look as radical as…well…Arlen Specter.

On all of the above votes, taken from the short list of the lowlights of John Kerry’s record, Arlen Specter voted with John Kerry. But the Republican establishment is backing Specter, still.

Of the 26 very worst Kerry votes the RNC could find from 1985 until 2001, Specter voted wrong on 10. Let’s take a look at these votes (the descriptions are the from the RNC’s “Who is John Kerry?” page):

VS. BORK

The Kerry-Specter alliance began with a bang, voting against the Bork nomination. But here, no one can accuse Specter of following Kerry. No, Specter was the point man in sinking Bork. Bork’s handler, Tom Korologos, credits Specter with the “game-winning RBI” in sinking the conservative nominee.

Bork’s approach to reading the Constitution was too “narrow,” and Bork didn’t appreciate it as “a living, growing document” in Specter’s words. Don’t forget this is the man in line to chair the Judiciary Committee next year.

VS. PARENTAL NOTIFICATION

In 1990, Specter joined Kerry in opposing parental notification for minors’ abortions. This was not a vote requiring parental consent, merely notification. Not only that, this was not a broad regulation on abortions, it was a condition on federally appropriated money.

Yes, Democrats were sending tax dollars to abortion clinics, and Republicans wanted to add a condition to that money. If an abortionist wanted to abort a minor’s unborn child without the parents’ knowledge, he could reject the federal funding.

One more detail: the notification rule was waived in the case of “medical emergencies,” a broad term which went largely undefined. Still, Kerry and Specter agreed that this was too restrictive. Taxpayer funding for abortionists ought to come with no strings attached, the two concurred.

VS. DEFENSE SPENDING

Specter and Kerry were both in the minorities of their respective parties in voting to slash defense spending by $3.1 billion in 1991. Specter was one of three Republicans to support this amendment.

Neither Senator could point to deficit reduction as their rationale-the bill simply shifted the money to domestic federal programs.

VS. SCHOOL CHOICE

In January of 1992, Kerry and Specter teamed up on the first two contested votes of the session. First, on a non-binding resolution, they joined in support of Supreme Court rulings banning voluntary prayer in school.

Then, on the fifth roll-call vote of the year, Kerry and Specter helped defeat a pilot program for school choice for poor families only. The provision came with authorization of new funds, and so it could not be accused of draining the public schools.

VS. TORT REFORM

Specter and Kerry are two of the favorites of the trial lawyer lobby for a reason. The RNC drew out of Kerry’s past a 1995 vote where he and Specter helped defeat a measure that would have capped punitive damages on medical-malpractice and product-liability cases at two times the compensatory damages. This is not a hard cap at all because compensatory damages would not be capped.

On that same day, the two voted hand-in-hand a number of times against the GOP leadership to protect the lawyers.

VS. RESPONSIBLY BUDGETTING

This 1997 GOP-sponsored budget resolution combined spending cuts with tax cuts for net deficit reduction. Thirteen other Republicans voted no, but those were the likes of Phil Gramm and Jesse Helms, who objected that the budget was too large. Specter’s objections were far closer to those of Kerry.

VS. CLONING BAN

Almost precisely five years to the day before scientists first made and killed a human life through cloning, John Kerry and Arlen Specter voted to kill a bill that would have banned human cloning in the U.S.

VS. TAX REDUCTION

While they couldn’t defeat the $792 billion tax cut on Capitol Hill (during a time of budget surplus in 1999), Kerry and Specter provided enough support to President Clinton to sustain his veto. Specter was one of only two Republicans to join Kerry and the Democrats. Even Jim Jeffords voted Yes.

Specter, of course, changed his tune on tax cuts last year (during a time of budget deficts), when Pat Toomey announced his primary challenge.

VS. EXPANDING HATE-CRIME PROTECTIONS

Not only did Kerry and Specter agree in 2000 that crimes against homosexuals or bisexuals should be treated differently than crimes against heterosexuals, they both decided that a defense bill was the appropriate place to push their discriminatory federal power grab.

4 SHRINKING TAX CUT

Finally, Specter was one of four Republicans to vote to shrink Bush’s tax cut. The amendment passed with 53 votes. Very simply, this means that your taxes are higher now because of liberal Republicans such as Arlen Specter.

George W. Bush thinks he can win Pennsylvania. He seems to think having Arlen Specter on the ticket below him will help. Trying to convince voters to vote for Bush and Specter will be a tough row to hoe, especially when it comes to explaining his positions on taxes, cloning, school choice, the life of the unborn, and the direction of the federal courts. Kerry and Specter would be the more natural pair for voters to choose.

Pennsylvania Republicans have a chance this April 27 to help the Bush campaign in the Keystone State have a clear coherent message on life, the strength of the military, and federal budget.

Otherwise, Bush will need to explain why Kerry’s positions the wrong ones for a president to take, but just dandy for a senator.

Timothy P. Carney is a reporter for the Evans-Novak Political Report.

Timothy P. CarneyMr. Carney, the author of Alienated America, is the commentary editor of the Washington Examiner and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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