Although Senator Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican, has issued a clarification on his warnings to Bush and even said Sunday on CBSs Face the Nation that he would support President Bushs judicial nominees even if they are pro-life, conservatives are still not convinced they want him to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"The fact is that I have supported all of President Bush's nominees in committee and on the floor. I have never applied a litmus test," said Specter on Face the Nation.
Specter, by Senate Rules of seniority, is next in line to head the Senate Judiciary Committee, a position which would allow him wide latitude to schedule hearings, stage committee votes and make the Senate confirmation process as easy or as hard as he wants, reported the Associated Press.
The issue has gained mass media attention because Bush will likely appoint a judge to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court during his second term, considering the Courts Chief Justice William Rehnquist has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. However, Bushs appointments must be approved by the Senate, which is ruled by a Republican majority but short of the 60 seats required to prevent a Democratic filibuster.
Bushs political strategist Karl Rove said on Fox New Sunday the White House expects a fair review of all its judicial nominees. Rove said Specter has assured the president that he would make certain all Bush's appellate nominees receive a prompt hearing and an up-or-down vote by the full Senate.
"Senator Specter's a man of his word, and we'll take him at his word," he said.
But one prominent evangelical conservative isnt exhibiting the same confidence in the Senator.
Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family appeared on ABCs This Week and stood by his previous comments wanting Specter blocked from the position.
"Senator Specter is a big-time problem for us, said Dobson, and he must be derailed. He said Specter made "one of the most foolish and ill-considered comments that a politician has made in a long time."
He added, "There are many, many members of that committee that are more qualified and less of a problem than Senator Specter.
Specter set off a furor among conservatives after suggesting that Bush s pro-life judicial nominees would not likely pass the Senate.
When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v Wade, I think that is unlikely, he said during the Nov. 3 press conference.
He also added that prior nominees by the President were filibustered, saying, I would expect the President to be mindful of the considerations that I mentioned.
Following the Senators comments, numerous pro-family and conservative groups issued statements saying Specter had disqualified himself from chairing Senate Judiciary Committee and initiated a grassroots effort to urge Senators to remove Specter.
Late last week, calls begin flooding Senates offices and the uproar is "not going to go away," Dobson said. "Republican senators know they've got a problem."
Dobson said he was also soured on Specter by the senator's support for embryonic stem cell research and his opposition to the Supreme Court nomination of conservative Robert Bork in 1987.
A coalition of religious pro-life groups is also against Senators appointing Specter as chairman of the Committee. Backed by national pro-life leaders Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, Rev. Rob Schenck of Faith and Action, and Chris Slattery, a Catholic pro-life, pro-family activist from New York City, the coalition is planning a "pray-in" at the Dirksen Senate Office building on Nov. 16 and possibly inside the office of Sen. Bill Frist, to ask that Specter not be given the position.