I was actually more equivocal about Sam Alito than in Quin’s reading of my earlier post. While I said flatly that John Roberts could have been confirmed without Arlen Specter, on Alito I wrote, “Alito could have been filibustered and maybe Specter stopped it.” So I acknowledge that perhaps Specter’s strong support in the committee hearings may have undercut liberal filibuster attempts (though so did the reticence of red state Democrats who feared the move would backfire politically).
But the 10-8 Senate Judicary Committee vote Quin mentions was strictly along party lines. Other than Specter, the committee’s Republicans at the time were Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Jon Kyl, Mike DeWine, Jeff Sessions, John Cornyn, Lindsey Graham, Sam Brownback, and Tom Coburn. That’s a fairly conservative group, and I don’t even see Graham or DeWine as likely votes against a Republican Supreme Court nominee barring some disastrous revelation. The most liberal Republican on that committee was Specter.
Granted, the composition of the Judiciary Committee might have been a bit different without Specter (though the partisan breakdown probably wouldn’t have been). But it seems to me that if Alito was going to be rejected, the cloture vote was the key one. And on that motion, Alito enjoyed the support of the Gang of 14, of which Specter wasn’t a member. Defenders of Rick Santorum’s Specter endorsement may be right on the judges question, but I don’t think it is the slam dunk they apparently do.