Joe Torsella, chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Education and twice president of the National Constitution Center, was in Washington D.C. this morning for a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on his nomination by President Obama for a top post at the United Nations.
Torsella was asked by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the New Hampshire Democrat chairing the hearing, about his decision in May 2009 to drop his bid for U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter's seat. Specter, at the urging of Obama and Gov. Rendell, switched from Republican to Democrat last year in what turned out to be a failed bid for re-election. Shaheen asked "whether you're getting out of that campaign and this nomination are in any way connected?"
Torsella said there was "absolutely no connection" between the two, adding that the "facts changed dramatically" in the race, prompting his decision. "No one offered me or hinted at the offer of anything to do so, nor did I ask anyone for anything to do it," Torsella testified. "I just did it because for me and my family the right thing to do. The only deal I made to get out of that Senate race was with my wife. And it was a good one."
Gov. Rendell recommended Torsella for the U.N. job. The U.S. representative for U.N. Management and Reform post comes with the rank of ambassador. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, praised Torsella today and read a letter from former President George H.W. Bush about the appointment.
"As a former ambassador to the United Nations, I could not be more confident in Joe's qualifications for this job," Bush wrote about Torsella. "I would have been proud to have had him on my team. He is a man of character and principal and will represent our country well."
You can watch video of today's hearing here. Torsella's answer to Shaheen's question comes at the 44:00 minute mark.