Today’s sessions at the Federalist Society annual conference kicked off with a speech by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), the current (but outgoing) chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. His remarks, which focused on the judicial nominations process, were engaging and informative. The crowd enjoyed his dry wit.
We may have more to say about Senator Specter’s address later. For now, a quick account of our exchange with him during the question-and-answer session. When it was our turn to question Senator Specter, we asked:
Senator Specter, as the current chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, do you have any thoughts on specific individuals who might be suitable nominees to the Supreme Court? And on a related note, what do you think of Senator Chuck Schumer’s suggestion of you as a possible nominee?
The Senator took the second question first. His good-natured, joking response (paraphrased):
It’s the best idea he’s had in a decade. In fact, it’s the only good idea he’s had in a decade!
Senator Specter went on to note that, back in 1971, he was talked about as a possible Supreme Court nominee (according to the Nixon tapes). He quipped that 1971 “would have been a better time” than today.
Finally, with respect to opining on possible SCOTUS nominees, the senator demurred. He noted that while he certainly could offer some names, as part of the Senate’s “advise and consent” function, he would exercise his discretion not to speak on the subject. He said he expected President Bush to appreciate that decision.