Specter Says He Didn't Warn Bush on Supreme Court Nominees

By Erin Brezsnyak | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) on Thursday refuted a report that he had warned President Bush against choosing future Supreme Court nominees who would seek to overturn abortion laws or would be too conservative to be confirmed.

Specter, who supports abortion, was reelected to a fifth Senate term. He is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is expected to succeed Sen. Orrin Hatch as chair of the committee next year. That would give him authority to schedule hearings, call votes and make the process of judicial nominations easy or hard.

"Contrary to press accounts, I did not warn the president about anything and was very respectful of his constitutional authority on the appointment of federal judges," Specter said in a statement.

"As the record shows, I have supported every one of President Bush's nominees in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor. I have never and would never apply any litmus test on the abortion issue..."

Concerned about prompt action by the Judiciary Committee, Specter also pointed out that he has sponsored a protocol for a committee hearing within 30 days of a nomination, a vote out of committee 30 days later and floor action 30 days after that.

These comments are in conflict with earlier remarks reported by the press which said Specter warned Bush about future Supreme Court nominees.

On Wednesday, Specter warned the president against putting forth Supreme Court nominations who would seek to overturn abortion rights or who are otherwise too conservative, according to the Houston Chronicle.

"When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely," the Houston Chronicle quoted Specter as saying.

"The president is well aware of what happened when a bunch of his nominees were sent up, with the filibuster...and I would expect the president to be mindful of the considerations which I am mentioning," the Chronicle quoted him as saying.

"That is a not-so-subtle threat from Sen. Specter to the president," Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, said in a statement Thursday regarding Specter's first set of comments.

"He is warning President Bush not to consider his re-election margin or the passionate effort by committed Christians to get him elected. That is the worst kind of political bullying, not to mention arrogant grandstanding on the part of a man who certainly would not have survived a strong primary challenge last spring without the endorsement of President Bush and Sen. Rick Santorum," Dobson continued.

Dobson said voters can be glad for the defeat of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle this week. Daschle led an "unprecedented blockade of Bush's socially conservative judicial nominees over the past two years," but Dobson warned people not think the obstructionism is going to stop.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said he believes the president in his second term will have more success with his judicial nominees winning confirmation.

"I'm confident that now we've gone from 51 to 55 seats, we will be able to overturn what has become customary filibuster of judicial nominees," the Houston Chronicle quoted Frist as saying.

President Bush's reelection holds significance for many pressing issues that have been decided or blocked by the Supreme Court in the past.

With the possibility of at least three Supreme Court nominations, President Bush has more power to control the future of various controversial issues, including abortion and same-sex "marriage."

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