Politics & Policy

Stopping Specter

Giving the Pennsylvania Republican the Senate Judiciary chairmanship would hurt conservatives.

Newly reelected Pennsylvania liberal Republican Arlen Specter is in the midst of a fight to clinch the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which because of the tradition of seniority, he is next in line to take. But comments made to Pennsylvania media the morning after the election, his record, and an outcry from conservatives have put that all in doubt.

Steve Moore, an NRO regular, is the president of the Club for Growth, which, besides putting together some sassy commercials during the presidential race, also played a key role in conservative Pat Toomey’s Republican primary challenge to Arlen Specter earlier this year. NRO editor Kathryn Lopez checked in with him for some reminders of why his crowd opposed Specter then (and now).

National Review Online: The Club for Growth played no small roll in making the Pennsylvania primary a tough one for Arlen Specter. What motivated your work against Specter?

Moore: Arlen Specter is the last of a dying breed of northeastern liberal Republicans. He is the most visible and trouble-making RINOs (Republican in Name Only) in the Senate. He is captured by the trial lawyers. He has one of the worst voting records on fiscal issues, according to the National Taxpayers Union and the Citizens Against Government Waste. He opposed the first Bush tax cut. This is a Republican?

National Review Online: The movement to keep Specter from becoming judiciary chair is being talked about in the media as being about abortion. But there are a whole lot of other reasons conservatives oppose Specter. What’s your overall case against Specter as chair?

Moore: Conservatives have spent 20 years in energy and in money building up a conservative voting majority in the Senate. One of the prime motivations for this is ensure that no more conservative judges get “Borked.” This president will likely have two or three Supreme Court nominations. We need a Republican at the head of the Judiciary Committee who will be a fierce warrior for Bush’s judges, not an obstacle. So far, Specter has sounded more like Tom Daschle than George Bush on court nominations. Also, litigation reform is a top economic priority for this new Republican Congress. We need a Judiciary Committee chairman who will put consumers and producers ahead of vulturous trial lawyers.

National Review Online: How damaging would you envision a Specter Judiciary chairmanship–in terms of legislation, in terms of the courts?

Moore: Arlen Specter would be Arlen Specter–which is to say he would be a big pain in the behind. That’s especially true because Specter is not going to run again for the Senate, so he no longer even has to pretend that he’s a conservative. If he gets the chairmanship, conservatives will spend six years cursing that day.

National Review Online: Publicly at least, the White House and some Republican senators seem to still be backing Specter. Do they have to? Will a little more pressure undo that? What should conservatives be doing to end their support of Specter as chairman?

Moore: This is a time when Republicans in the Senate who want to run for president should be held accountable. This is a big, big deal for the conservative movement. Where does my friend Bill Frist stand? Where does George Allen stand? Inquiring conservative minds want to know!


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