Washington Arlen Specter on Thursday won the backing of Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans to be their new chairman, surviving complaints from abortion opponents after submitting an extraordinary statement underscoring his support for Bush judicial nominees.
"I have assured the president that I would give his nominees quick committee hearings and early committee votes," Specter said at a news conference during which outgoing chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the panel's Republicans were unanimous in backing the Pennsylvania moderate.
"I have no reason to believe that I'll be unable to support any individual President Bush finds worthy" of the federal bench, Specter told reporters.
He read from a statement he wrote that was cleared by committee members as well as the GOP leadership. The leaders are determined to confirm Bush's second-term judicial nominees, possibly including a Supreme Court appointee.
In the statement, Specter repeated the guarantees he had made over the previous two weeks -- that he did not have a litmus test on abortion rights for judges and that he would give Bush's nominees quick hearings and push for their confirmation.
Specter also promised that he would fight possible Democratic filibusters and would not block legislation or a constitutional amendment in committee, "even one which I personally opposed."
With abortion opponents flooding the Capitol with complaints, GOP senators had said a public reckoning with Specter was required to smooth things over -- and to give Republicans some political cover.
Even so, Specter said he felt no pressure to change any position. "There's nothing that I have said here today that I haven't repeated often in prior statements in the course of the past two weeks and many years before," he said.