Tuesday, May 05, 2009

More On Specter

The saga continues.

Centrist and neo-liberal Democrats, including the President and the Vice-President, are hoping that the newest convert in Washington, D.C., Arlen Specter, becomes a Democrat now that he is a Democrat.

But if Specter's appearance on Sunday's Face The Nation is any indication, it's going to be a long wait. The Pennsylvania Senator, asked by Bob Schieffer where he disagrees with "the President and the Democrats," remarked

One illustration is the legislation on employees’ choice, which is also known as card check, which would eliminate the secret ballot and also provide for mandatory arbitration. Now, while I feel there’s a need for a labor law reform, I’m not for that legislation.

This is unsurprising, given that Specter, representing a state with a very heavy concentration of members of organized labor, has said a few times in the past months that he will be opposing cloture on the Employees Free Choice Act. But asked by Schieffer "What kind of person do you think President Obama ought to nominateto the court?", Specter replied

And we can expect under our constitutional process to have very probing questions for the President’s nominee to make sure that there will be respect for the Constitution and public policy in the Congress, and not to make law but to interpret the law.

For those of you under 8 years old: this "not to make law but to interpret the law" is straight out of Republican 101. It is part of the party's rhetorical support for "strict constructionism." Conveniently, Arlen Specter, like many conservatives who rail against judges who "make law" rather than interpret it, is reluctant to identify the instances in which courts have allegedly legislated, and loathe to identify the offending judges.

On Meet The Press the same day, Specter was asked about retaining as a Democrat the seniority he had accumulated as a Republican, and offered no false modesty:

Well, no, that's an entitlement. I've earned, I've earned the seniority. I was elected in 1980. And I think that's, that's not a bribe or a gift or something extraordinary.

Nevertheless, politico.com reported earlier today that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now has decided to treat the Pennsylvania senator as the most junior member of the five committees on which he has been serving. Though Specter claims that Reid had indicated otherwise to him upon the switch of parties (and the arrangement will be reassessed upon convening of the next congress), the contention is belied by this exchange on MTP:

MR. GREGORY: I want to move on, though, to the question of what it took for the Democrats to get you. What were you offered? What inducements have you been given to switch parties?

SEN. SPECTER: None.

MR. GREGORY: None.

SEN. SPECTER: None.

MR. GREGORY: You won't retain your seniority, as you move over, on, on key committees?

SEN. SPECTER: Well, that is, that is, that is true. But...


There is some indication that this unusually bold move by the Democratic caucus was spurred in part by Specter's rather odd confirmation, in an interview to be published this week in The New York Times, of his radical allegiance to affirmative action and continuing fondness for the GOP:

Q: With your departure from the Republican Party, there are no more Jewish Republicans in the Senate. Do you care about that?

SPECTER: I sure do. There’s still time for the Minnesota courts to do justice and declare Norm Coleman the winner.


Speculation arose that Specter was joking (which the reporter doubts) and, as if to confirm that he was actually serious, Specter said he "misspoke." (That's politician for "I didn't realize speaking as I believed would hurt me politically.")

In classic understatement, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow summed it up:

"There were concerns about his actions."

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