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Sen. Specter’s Switch May Not Impact Appointments of Judges and U.S. Attorneys

When it comes to appointments of judges and U.S. Attorneys, not all that much may change simply because Sen. Arlen Specter has changed parties.  He often exercised independence and is likely to continue on that path.specter-front-page

David Ingram
Legal Times
WASHINGTON — Sen. Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party brings his new colleagues a little closer to controlling 60 seats in the Senate, but it’s not clear that the switch will have much of an effect on the fate of nominees for the federal bench and the Justice Department.

Lawyers and lobbyists who follow the Senate Judiciary Committee have long said that it’s difficult to predict how Specter will vote on nominees — even when he asks critical questions of them in confirmation hearings. On Tuesday the Pennsylvanian vowed not to change his approach.

“I will not be changing my own personal independence or my own approach to individual issues. I will not be an automatic 60th vote,” Specter told reporters, referring to the votes needed to invoke cloture and cut off Senate debate. He added later, “I have always agreed with John Kennedy that sometimes parties ask too much. And if the Democratic Party asks too much, I will not hesitate to disagree and vote my independent thinking.”

In fact, Specter provided a fresh example of that independence Tuesday, saying for the first time that he is “opposed” to the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to be assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel.

Her confirmation is a priority for the Democratic Party’s base, in part because the office has been at the center of the battle over interrogation policies.

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