WASHINGTON (CNN) – Forgive Arlen Specter if he felt a little confused Wednesday.
The former Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee took his turn questioning Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as one of the lowest-ranking Democrats - ahead of only the chamber's newest member, Al Franken of Minnesota.
Specter, who has represented Pennsylvania since 1980, switched parties in April and therefore lost the committee seniority accrued in almost three decades as a Republican.
That didn't stop him from raising favorite judicial issues with Sotomayor, including his long-standing push for televising sessions of the nation's highest court.
Noting that both House and Senate proceedings are televised and the "tremendous interest" in Sotomayor's nominating process, Specter said it is time to also broaden access to Supreme Court proceedings.
"Wouldn't it be more appropriate in a democracy to let the people take a look inside?" he asked.
Sotomayor replied that she participated in some televised court proceedings and that, if confirmed, would relay her "positive experiences" to her Supreme Court colleagues.
At a 2007 Senate hearing, Justice Anthony Kennedy urged Specter to drop the issue.
"Please, senator, don't introduce into the dynamic that I have with my colleagues the insidious temptation to think one of my colleagues is trying to get a sound bite for television," Kennedy said at the time. "We don't want that. Please don't introduce this into our inter-collegial deliberations."
On Wednesday, Specter demonstrated the skill of a committee chairman to control the pace, repeatedly cutting off Sotomayor's responses as not answering his questions.
Later, in praising Sotomayor's record as a judge, Specter said: "I'm not commenting about your answers, but your record is exemplary."
"You'll be judged on your record more than your answers," he said.