Snarlin’ ‘n’ Arlen

From Holden:

It’s always hard to know if Arlen Specter is a real senator or just a douche but if his account of Cheney’s shennanigans with the Judiciary Committee is to be believed then I’d have to come down on the side of real senator.

The lawmaker, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, accused Vice President Dick Cheney of meddling behind his back in the committee’s business, bringing into the open a conflict that has simmered for months.

In a letter to Mr. Cheney that the senator released to the news media, Mr. Specter said the vice president had cut him out of discussions with all the other Republicans on his own committee about oversight of the administration’s eavesdropping programs, a subject on which Mr. Specter has often been at odds with the White House.

The trigger for Mr. Specter’s anger was a deal made by Mr. Cheney with the other Republicans on the committee to block testimony from phone companies that reportedly cooperated in providing call records to the National Security Agency.

Mr. Specter, who had been considering issuing subpoenas to compel telephone company executives to testify, learned of Mr. Cheney’s actions only when he went into a closed meeting of the committee’s Republicans on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after encountering the vice president at a weekly luncheon of all Senate Republicans.


“I was surprised, to say the least, that you sought to influence, really determine, the action of the committee without calling me first, or at least calling me at some point,” Mr. Specter wrote. “This was especially perplexing since we both attended the Republican senators caucus lunch yesterday and I walked directly in front of you on at least two occasions en route from the buffet to my table.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney, Lea Anne McBride, said Wednesday night that the vice president “has not had an opportunity to study” the letter.


One Republican with close ties to the administration, who was granted anonymity to discuss the thinking at the White House, said Mr. Specter had been increasingly nettlesome to the administration with his persistent criticism, especially of the surveillance programs.

Noting that the White House was ultimately pleased with Mr. Specter’s help in securing the confirmations of Mr. Bush’s Supreme Court nominees, this Republican said, “All of that good will he’s built up has really been dissipated because he keeps smacking them around.”


In his letter, Mr. Specter told Mr. Cheney that events were unfolding in a “context where the administration is continuing warrantless wiretaps in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and is preventing the Senate Judiciary Committee from carrying out its constitutional responsibility for Congressional oversight.”