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Specter: There was no deal for Santorum support

The former Pennsylvania senator discusses his former colleague and why he won't be supporting Rick Santorum for president.

Arlen Specter says he never had a conversation with Rick Santorum about supporting President George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominations in exchange for the presidential candidate's backing in a tough 2004 re-election primary campaign.

Specter called assertions by Santorum that such an agreement had been struck “flatly not true.” 

In this week’s GOP debate, Santorum was put on the defensive about his past support for Specter, a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania who was viewed with suspicion by conservatives on many issues, particularly for his support of abortion rights. 

Santorum said that he spoke with Specter and received his assurance that, as the incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Specter would support Bush’s nominees.

“Arlen Specter was a senator who was going to be the chairman of the Judiciary Committee at a time when the most important issue that was coming up in the next session of Congress was two to three Supreme Court nominees,” Santorum said.  “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.’”

In an interview on MSNBC, Specter disputed that account.  “That is flatly not true.  We never had any such conversation.  It would be improper to make a commitment on a vote before I knew who the nominee was and whether I thought the nominee was qualified.”