Thursday, November 18, 2004

Specter gets the nod

Specter will be the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

"Arlen Specter will be our next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. We are pleased to support Arlen in this matter," said outgoing chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

Specter had been meeting behind closed doors with members of the committee and with Republican leaders in an effort to allay concerns about whether he would support the president's nominees and make sure they get quick action in the Senate.

To gain the seat that he was next in line to win, Specter had to put his assurances to conservatives in writing and then read them aloud to the public.

Among the pledges, Specter said: "I have not and will not use a litmus test to deny confirmation of pro-life nominees ... I have no reason to believe that I will be unable to support any individual the president finds worthy of nomination.

As I said before, this is the right decision, though I agree with the arguments against having Specter as chairman, b/c he is too liberal and is not a conservative on these issues (not just abortion, but tort reform as well). But the time for getting rid of Specter was in the primaries, but Bush and Santorum supported him against Pat Toomey for political, not ideological reasons. We shouldn't change now? Not that the conservative outcry over what Specter said wasn't appropriate or welcome. The GOP should have these kinds of intra-party debates (at least one major party can tolerate internal disputes), and if the conservatives on the committee accept Specter's word, and keep a close eye on him, then I can live with that. Specter should be on probation, and if he gets out of line he should lose his post.

In the future, the GOP should consider ideology and ability over seniority (unless it has no other choice) when passing out committee chairmanships. I'm glad to have liberal/moderate Republicans in the party and even chair some committees, but those chairmanships should reflect where that particular l/m Republican agrees with the majority of the party. For example, if Specter is much more conservative on spending issues, he should be the head of the Finance Committee (actually, I think he will be, though I don't know exactly where he stands on those issues), but if he is liberal on judicial issues, he shouldn't be head of the judiciary committee, though could still be on it. As for now, you don't change the rules in the middle of the game and if Specter was due the spot, and kicking him off would have been bad for the party (the ONLY political vehicle for the conservative agenda), then let him have it. Comity right now is paramount as we try to consolidate our power in the Congress as a big tent party.