Specter believes Senate would reject filibuster against Obama’s pick for high-court ‘ideological battleground’

April 13, 2010

The person who arguably knows as much as anyone in the U.S. Senate about counting votes and judicial confirmation battles has some advice for President Barack Obama:

Pick a U.S. Supreme Court nominee without regard to a possible Republican procedural roadblock known as a filibuster.

Senator Arlen Specter said Obama also needs to make his selection understand that the nation’s highest court is an ideological battleground that has  moved sharply to the right in recent years. OBAMA/

In a Senate speech on Monday,  Specter said he believes there will be the 60 votes needed in the 100-member Senate to end any filibuster against Obama’s upcoming pick to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, the court’s leading liberal.

“As divisive as the Senate has become and as partisan as the Senate has become, I believe there are 60 votes in this chamber to reject the concept of  a filibuster,”  Specter said.

Senate Republicans have said a filibuster is unlikely but they haven’t ruled out the possibility if they believe his pick is outside the judicial mainstream.

Specter bolted from the Republican Party last year and became a Democrat. At 80, Specter is now in a tough battle to win a sixth, six-year Senate term from his home state of  Pennsylvania in the November congressional election.

As chairman of  the Senate Judiciary Committee, Specter presided over the confirmation hearings of  then Republican President George W.  Bush’s successful Supreme Court nominees, conservatives John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

In his Senate speech, Specter, a moderate, said the disputed 2000 U.S. presidential election was decided by a divided Supreme Court “strictly along political partisan lines.”

Specter also criticized the justices’ 5-4 decision along conservative and liberal lines this year that long-standing campaign finance limits violated the free speech rights of corporations.

The Pennsylvania Democrat made it clear that he believes Obama needed to consider these and other factors in making his pick for a life-time appointment to the Supreme Court.

“I urge the president to make his selection of whomever he believes to be the best qualified to handle the responsibilities with a view to academic excellence, professional experience and intellect to carry on the battle, where we have seen the Supreme Court veer sharply to the right.”

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama at fundraiser for Specter)

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