Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) confirmed that as Judiciary Committee chairman last year he made a last-minute change to a bill that expanded the administration's power to install U.S. Attorneys without Senate approval.
Seizing upon the new authority granted by Congress last March, the White House has pushed out several U.S. Attorneys, and begun to replace them without the Senate's consent.
"I can confirm for you that yes, it was a Specter provision," a spokesperson for the senator wrote to me in an email earlier today, responding to repeated inquiries. Earlier we reported that Specter had been fingered for the last-minute change, made in a select Republicans-only meeting after the House and Senate had voted on earlier versions.
Still, a mystery remains: Why Specter wanted the change, which arguably weakened the Senate's role in selecting federal prosecutors.
The senator made no public comment on the provision at the time of the bill's passage. A congressional report which accompanied the final version of the bill said that Specter's change "addresses an inconsistency in the appointment process of United States Attorneys." It's not clear, however, what exactly that inconsistency was.
In her email to me, Specter's aide did not respond to my request for an explanation of why Specter wanted the change.