Specter denies deal for Santorum endorsement

PHILADELPHIA - MAY 18: Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) (L) concedes defeat at a primary night gathering of supporters and staff with his wife Joan Specter May 18, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Specter, a five-term Senator who switched his political affiliation a year ago, was defeated by Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary. Win McNamee/Getty Images

PHILADELPHIA - MAY 18, 2010: Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA)
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Former Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter denies making any agreement over judicial nominees in exchange for Rick Santorum's support during a bitter primary battle with a more conservative challenger almost a decade ago.

Making a commitment over how he would vote about future nominees to the Supreme Court "would have been the wrong thing to do," Specter said, adding that Santorum's assertion is "not correct."

At Wednesday's Republican presidential primary debate, Santorum said he supported Specter in the 2004 primary over challenger Pat Toomey because of a commitment his fellow Pennsylvanian made regarding Supreme Court justices should he become the head of the Judiciary Committee, which runs the confirmation hearings for judicial nominees.

"He asked me to support him. I said will you support the president's nominees?" Santorum said, correctly predicting President George W. Bush could name new justices. "He said I'll support the president's nominees as chairman."

Santorum was forced to defend his support of Specter after former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said Santorum is at fault for the passage of President Obama's signature health care law because Specter's vote put it over the top.

"Supporting Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey, that was a -- that was a very tortuous route," Romney charged Wednesday night. Toomey lost the 2004 primary to Specter, who won re-election.

Loathed by many conservatives and sensing a primary challenge from Toomey five years later, Specter became a Democrat in 2009 after decades as a Republican. Specter lost the Democratic primary to Rep. Joe Sestak, who lost the 2010 election to Toomey, now a senator from Pennsylvania. Toomey serves with Sen. Bob Casey, the Democrat who trounced Santorum in the 2006 election.

On The Michael Smercornish Radio Show Thursday morning, Specter said he "made no commitment to him about support of judges."

"Sen. Santorum supported my candidacy in that primary pretty much as we have supported each other over the years," the former Pennsylvania senator said Thursday. "We have different ideologies but we've worked very closely together in the interest of Pennsylvania."

Specter said he did not watch the debate because he has "watched more than enough," but he heard about it on NPR Thursday morning.

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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