The Corner

Specter: On Judge Pryor, Filibuster & Staff

An e-mailer makes excellent points: For instance, was Specter ever going to vote for Bill Pryor (who had to be recess appointed)? That there are even such questions, gets to this temperament issue…

First, it must be noted that Specter’s claim to have supported every Bush nominee isn’t entirely true. It’s only true that he supported CLOTURE on every Bush nominee. But, unless I missed something, he never promised to support Bill Pryor on final passage; indeed, reading between the lines, it was easy to take his hint that he actually would oppose Pryor on final passage. (Again, this bears checking out; Specter may have quietly changed his tune during a later cloture vote.) Meanwhile, he quite publicly gave succor to those who were pushing some of the trumped-up charges against Pryor, especially the bogus charges on RAGA, which Specter said were troubling. And, if memory serves correctly, there were other nominees that Specter never committed to supporting on final passage (although I didn’t pay quite the attention to later filibustered nominees that I did to Pryor, so, again, this might require a fact-check).

Second, it seems to me that, in light of Frist’s speech last night, conservatives should demand that, if the GOP senators refuse to block Specter for the chairmanship outright, they should at least block his ascension unless and until he commits not just to voting against a filibuster, but to SUPPORTING ANY RULES CHANGE that would end filibusters of judicial nominees. In other words, even if it comes to the so-called “nuclear option,” Specter should commit to supporting it, and thus killing the filibusters altogether. If he won’t make a firm commitment on that front, he should not be chairman.

Finally, back to the reasons to oppose Specter as chairman regardless: The one argument I haven’t seen made is that it is absolutely crucial to keep a solid, conservative staff on the Judiciary Committee. The chairman controls the staff. If Specter becomes chairman, I guarantee he’ll purge the staff of its conservatives (not that the whole existing staff is conservative, by the way, but it’s at least semi-conservative right now) and replace it with a staff full of Specterites. That will matter not just for processing nominees, but for oversight and drafting of all manner of legislation, from tort reform to the Patriot Act to…. well, you know what Judiciary handles…

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