During last night’s Republican debate, rival candidate Mitt Romney attacked former Sen. Rick Santorum for endorsing pro-choice Republican (later turned Democrat) Sen. Arlen Specter over the more conservative primary challenger Pat Toomey. Santorum defended the endorsement claiming that he effectively traded the endorsement for a promise on judicial confirmations:
We had a conversation. He asked me to support him. I said “Will you support the President’s nominees?” We had a 51-49 majority in the senate. He said “I’ll support the President’s nominees, as chairman.”
Watch the exchange:
In an interview with radio host Michael Smerconish, Specter denied these allegations, stating that Santorum “is not correct. I made no commitment to him about supporting judges.” According to Specter:
That would have been the wrong thing to do. As chairman of that committee, I supported Roberts and Alito because I thought they were qualified for the jobs, but I made no deal. … There was no conversation where I made any commitment to him with respect to supporting any judges who hadn’t been nominated and whom I didn’t know about. I just didn’t do that and wouldn’t do that.
Given Specter’s long history of support for Republican Supreme Court nominees not named Bork and the two senators’ long record of mutual electoral support, Santorum’s accusations seem dubious at best.