Last week we briefly discussed the appearance at the Federalist Society convention of Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), outgoing chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. We also described our exchange with him during the question-and-answer session.
We now provide you with a somewhat more detailed account of Senator Specter’s remarks. We found them surprisingly funny; but don’t get your hopes THAT high (because some of them were of a “you had to be there” nature).
Our write-up of Senator Specter’s speech, after the jump.
Sen. Specter delivered the opening address for Friday, November 17. He spoke about judicial confirmations, a natural topic given his audience (but during the Q-and-A, he addressed other topics).
When introducing Sen. Specter, Dean Reuter misspoke and referred to Sen. Specter having participated in the confirmations of “two Senators.” So Specter began his speech by picking up on this slip, and saying something along these lines (paraphrased): “I would like to see two senators someplace other than the Senate. As long as they’re Democrats, so we can get a majority!”
After a pause (for the laughter), Sen. Specter continued: “But I think it would be too high a price to confirm them to the Supreme Court.”
After another pause, the true punchline: “I could live with them being confirmed to the District Court. So maybe we can work something out…”
Other random funny quips from the Senator:
“During the Alito confirmation hearings, Senator Kennedy got confused. He thought he was the Chairman!” (referring to the whole brouhaha over the subpoena for Justice Alito’s Princeton records)
“I never see Senator Kennedy in the Senate gym,” said Senator Specter (referring to press accounts saying that the two senators see each other there and talk business). “The rumor is that Senator Kennedy hasn’t been in the gym since the Johnson Administration. And that’s the Andrew Johnson administration.”
“They usually play the Judiciary Committee hearings on C-SPAN at 3 a.m. So I have an enormous following among America’s insomniacs.”
A warning to the ascendant Democrats about not letting power to go their heads:
“If the Democrats want to be obstructionist [on judicial nominees], they should keep in mind that there will someday be another election — and they may be held accountable, just as Tom Daschle was.”
Senator Specter, in contrast to many of his colleagues — e.g., Senator Biden, Senator Kerry — was concise in his remarks. He spoke for exactly the twelve minutes he promised, and then took questions from the audience.
Sen. Specter was questioned about whether senators have a duty to make their independent assessment of a statute’s constitutionality (instead of deferring to the judiciary) — and if so, why he voted in favor of habeas corpus legislation that he expressed some constitutional doubts about.
Senator Specter responded that yes, senators do have this duty. But if the Senate rejected the entire habeas bill based on one possibly problematic provision, then we’d have no way of dealing with the problem of the detained enemy combatants. So he decided that he wasn’t going to let “one man’s opinion” — namely, his own — from keeping this important issue in limbo, and pushing it off to next year.
We also asked him for his thoughts on possible SCOTUS nominees — including himself, as proposed by his colleague, Sen. Chuck Schumer. You can read about his response here.
Earlier: At the Federalist Society Conference: Senator Specter