Sunday, November 07, 2004
TRANSCRIPT: Specter on Face the Nation
CBS Face The Nation 11/07/04
BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning again, we begin in Philadelphia with Senator Arlen Specter, and to sort of set the stage, Senator Specter, let's review what went on, uh, last week, you said, and I believe this was your quote, "It would be unlikely for staunch opponents of abortion to be confirmed to the Supreme Court by the next Congress." Now, you are the incoming or are going to be or are in line to be the new Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and when you said that it set off something of a firestorm among many conservatives, um, among them, James Dobson, who's head of Focus on the Family, who said, and he said it just this morning, uh, you have now become a big-time problem and you should be derailed. They're trying to block you from becoming Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. What's your response to all this, Senator?
SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER: Well Bob, the problem started when AP reported that I had quote 'warned the President' which is not so. Rush Limbaugh and Fox said that they were trying to put a spin on what I had said, and when people are opposing me as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, these are the same people who came to Pennsylvania during my primary and tried to defeat me, but 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. I have supported Chief Justice Rehnquist for confirmation as Chief Justice when I knew he had voted against Roe versus Wade. I supported Justice Kennedy and O'Connor, and Scalia, and, uh, I led the fight to confirm Clarence Thomas. So that, uh, my record is pretty plain, that uh, though I am pro-choice, I have supported many pro-life nominees.
SCHIEFFER: So, uh, do you believe, I mean, uh, just to go back to what you said, uh, the first time around, do you believe anyone that wants to overturn Roe v. Wade would be confirmed by the Senate?
SPECTER: Well, the . . .
SCHIEFFER: Or could not be?
SPECTER: Well, what I said was that you need sixty votes for cloture. And, uh, we have had a history, where the Democrats have been filibustering. So, the, the, uh, concern as to confirmation, uh, is really the recognition of, of a political fact. I voted to cut off debate all the time, I have voted for cloture, which means 'to cut off debate.' But, uh, with 55 Republicans, you aren't at the magic number of sixty so you have to anticipate problems with the Democrats, uh, as we had a lot of them in the past Congress.
SCHIEFFER: Well,let me just ask you this, Senator, uh, what do you make of this, uh, drive among some people to try to block you from becoming Chairman of the Committee? Do you think that's, the, you think, do you take that seriously?
SPECTER: Well, I take everything seriously. But, uh, these are the same people that came from Pennsylvania from all over the country to try to defeat me in the primary election, and they, they were unsuccessful. They, they do not like my independence, and, uh, I am, uh, I believe, the only pro-choice Republican on the Judiciary Committee, uh, but that doesn't mean that I, uh, have a litmus test or that I don't give appropriate deference . . .
SCHIEFFER: Well . . .
SPECTER: . . . to what the President, whom the President nominates.
SCHIEFFER: Well, then, what do you say to Mr. Dobson. He heads a very powerful group of people out there, this Focus on the Family group, there's no question that a lot of people pay attention to what he has to say. What, what do you say to him?
SPECTER: Well, if he would call me up, I would say, 'Dr. Dobson, the situation on getting sixty votes is not my making, it is the making of the Democrats and they have demonstrated that, and, uh, I have been in the corner of deference to the President with people like Chief Justice Rehnquist when it was plain from his vote in Roe versus Wade that he was uh, against a woman's right to choose, and led the fight as to Clarence Thomas, almost lost my seat, Bob. Uh, I was up for election immediately after that confirmation hearing. That's what I would tell him.
SCHIEFFER: Alright, well, let me ask you also, because a lot of conservatives say you take the wrong stand on stem-cell research. Uh, What do you have to say this morning, where are you on that?
SPECTER: Well, I believe that stem cell research has enormous hope for the future, but I would point out that I am joined by Senator Hatch, a noted conservative. I'm joined by many conservative colleagues on the Republican side of the Senate. I'm joined by Mrs. Nancy Reagan and by, uh, the vast majority of the American people. Look here, Bob, if these embryonic stem cells could be used to produce life, I would never want to have tests on them, and in my capacity as Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, I took the lead in having an appropriation of a million dollars for embryo adoption. But you have 400,000 of them. They're either going to be used to save lives or they're going to be thrown away. So that, uh, I think my position is uh, pre-eminently reasonable.
SCHIEFFER: Okay, let's just talk about things in general up on the Senate. How do you view the President's win? Clearly it was decisive. Do you think he has a mandate, or should he begin now to reach out? He said in his victory statement he wanted to reach out, uh, to Democrats. Where are the places that he could work with Democrats?
SPECTER: Well, I think that, uh, the President should reach out, that's what he said he wants to do. I got to know the President pretty well on his 44 trips to Pennsylvania during the election. I have great respect for him. If uh, if his public persona is what I have seen up close, it would be uh, is very very strong. I think he will be reaching out to Democrats to try to heal the wounds, uh, we still had, uh, a fairly close election and there are a lot of issues where, uh, we're going to need support. I learned a long time ago that if you want to get something done in Washington you have to be willing to cross party lines. And we have a solid number, it's a great victory that Bill Frist engineered and George Allen did. But fifty-five is not sixty, which means you're going to have to have Democrats to support us to get a legislative agenda through, and the President understands that.
SCHIEFFER: Well, uh, you said, uh, right after the election, that if you have a race that is won by a percent or two, you have a narrowly divided country. You said that is not a traditional mandate. Do you, do you still believe that? Do you believe the President doesn't have a mandate here or do you think that he did have a decisive victory?
SPECTER: Well, I said, I said it was not an arithmatic mandate. Senator Frist said about the same thing in an Associated Press interview, that we did not have a mandate, that we made a lot of, a lot of progress. When you think about an overwhelming mandate, you think about what, uh, what President Roosevelt got. The, the President was a clear-cut victor, he has a lot of political capital which he's identified, he's prepared to use it, but still, the fact of life is that if you want to pass something legislatively you've got to get sixty votes in the Senate, and that means you have to reach out to Democrats.
SCHEIFFER: Okay. Well, I think Senator we'll stop it right there. I want to thank you for joining us this morning. We're going back to the studio now. Here with us is Senator Susan Collins. She is head of the Government Affairs and the Homeland Security Committee in the Senate. Senator Hagel, who has always been a key voice on foreign policy for the Republicans.
Afterwards, Senator Collins echoed Specter on the need for sixty votes, and began talking about Social Security and the budget. Seems they are sidestepping the issue of Specter as Chairman.