The Corner

Another Specter Story

From an old Hill hand:

“This isn’t directly related to judges, but it gives even more insight into Specter’s modus operandi and his cozyness with even the left-most members of the Senate.

At some point during the Appropriations battles in 1995 and 1996, there was a conference committee to hash out a bill — I think it was Energy and Water, but it might have been Labor-Health. Anyway, this was when Republicans (led by Bob Livingston, of course) actually WERE cutting spending and eliminating waste. The negotiations had been going on and on, as they often do, but eventually, after many hours, a rough consensus seemed to be in the offing. I watched as Tom Harkin, of all people, pulled Specter aside and they started whispering to each other, with Harkin pointing to his watch. After a minute or so, Specter nodded, smiled, patted Harkin on the back, and returned to the table as Harkin left the room to go to some other meeting.

A few minutes later, just as things seemed to be about to wrap up, Specter spoke up. He said there was one project he objected to being removed from the bill — note, this was when virtually ALL earmarks were being disallowed — and that he absolutely refused to agree to the bill without that project being included. As the conference committees at the time had bare GOP majorities, Specter’s opposition would kill the agreement. Of course, the project for which he was going to bat was some piece of rancid, purely local, pork for Harkin. The Republicans were incredulous at Specter’s stance, but he had them over a barrel. It had taken so long to work out the agreement, and the agreement was so tenuous, with so many tough, tough cuts in it, that any more delay might have made the whole thing unravel.

Specter calmly said, in effect (obviously I con’t remember the exact words, so these quotation marks are to be taken as approximations): ‘Boys, look, I’ve gotta go; I’ve got a commitment I’ve gotta attend to. You guys figure this out amongst yourselves, and maybe we’ll meet again next week…..’

I forget who the GOP House subcommittee chair was, but he obviously felt he had no choice. Everybody caved right then and there (remember, this was after many many many hours and many tough choices, and time was of the essence because of how things were playing out in the press), and Harkin — Tom Harkin, fergoshsakes!!! — got his pork, virtually the only piece of pure pork in the whole bill, without even being in the room, at the behest of Arlen Specter.

Specter is a disaster, and if Frist and Co. won’t act on their own to deny him the Judiciary chairmanship, President Bush should call Frist in and ORDER him to deny Specter the chairmanship.”

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