Bench Memos

Specter Walks a Tightrope

The Hill reports that Senator Arlen Specter is stuck between conservatives who want movement on judicial confirmations and his desire to play nice with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy. Earlier it was reported that Specter said Leahy had broken a promise to move on the Southwick nomination, but Specter is nowsoftening the claim.

Conservatives are sure Specter told them last week that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) broke a promise to move Leslie Southwick, President Bush’s controversial pick for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, to the Senate floor. Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) is one of those prepared to say directly that Leahy did not do what he said he would.

But as ranking Republican on the panel and mindful of his need to work with Leahy, Specter is taking pains in public to finesse the blunt words he used in private to a gathering of steamed-up conservatives.

Sitting next to Leahy at a panel meeting a few days after his comments were reported by The Hill, Specter demurred, saying, “Commitments were not broken, and had commitments by members been broken, I wouldn’t talk to the newspapers about it, I would talk to the members about it.”

The Hill reports suggests Specter is seeking to finesse the issue, and still hopes that the Southwick nomination will escape the committee. (LvHB )

Jonathan H. Adler — Jonathan H. Adler teaches courses in environmental, administrative, and constitutional law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

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