Conservative Christian groups are stepping up their calls against Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the senior Jewish Republican lawmaker in Washington, whom they are trying to prevent from assuming the chairmanship of the influential Senate Judiciary Committee.
Specter, a moderate who recently won a fifth term, was instrumental in torpedoing the 1980s Supreme Court nomination of ultraconservative Judge Robert Bork. He provoked the ire of religious conservatives when he noted the day after the election that anti-abortion judges would have a tough time clearing the Judiciary Committee.
“Senator Specter’s comments and record make him unfit for the chairmanship,” Carrie Gordon Earll, a spokeswoman for the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, told the Forward.
Her remarks were part of a larger chorus of outrage over Specter’s comments at a news conference. “When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, who’d overturn Roe v. Wade , I think that is unlikely,” he said, adding, “I have said bluntly during the course of the campaign, that Roe v. Wade was inviolate.”
Specter has backpedaled furiously during television appearances, saying that he would not attach any “litmus test” to President Bush’s judicial picks. But Gordon Earll said her group, which reaches 32 million Americans through a syndicated radio program, is urging supporters to contact their Republican lawmakers in order to forestall Specter’s chairmanship. She said that Specter’s seeming about-faces on television “only added to the angst” about him.
The White House offered only pro-forma support for Specter. Spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday that the chairmanship was “a matter for the Senate to decide, and it’s something that the White House does not have a role in.’’
Sources close to the controversy said that both process and politics would likely enable Specter to triumph over the challenges to his accession.