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Arlen Specter (born February 12, 1930) is the senior Democratic Party United States Senator from Pennsylvaniamarker. Specter was a member of the Democratic Party until 1965, when he enlisted as a Republican in order to challenge the Democratic district attorney of Philadelphia. Elected to the Senate in 1980, Senator Specter staked out a spot in the political center. He has conservative views on crime, gun control and national security, voting to confirm John Roberts and Samuel Alito during President George W. Bush's second term; at the same time, he holds liberal views on abortion rights, immigration, and the environment. In April 2006, he was selected by Time as one of America's Ten best Senators.

On April 28, 2009, Specter announced that, after 44 years as an elected Republican, he was returning to the Democratic Party, citing that he was increasingly "at odds with the (current) Republican philosophy and indicated that polling showed that it would be difficult for him to win the 2010 Republican senatorial primary against Pat Toomey." Since switching parties, Specter's voting record has become more center-left.

Arlen Specter was treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2005 and 2008. He is currently in remission.

Early years

Specter was born in Wichita, Kansasmarker, the youngest child of Lillie Shanin and Harry Specter, who had emigrated from Russiamarker in 1911. He was raised in the Jewish faith in Russell, Kansasmarker, also the hometown of fellow politician Bob Dole. Specter's father served in the U.S. infantry during World War I, and was badly wounded. During the Great Depression, Specter's father was a fruit peddler, a tailor and junkyard owner.

Specter studied first at the University of Oklahomamarker. He transferred to the University of Pennsylvaniamarker, majored in International Relations, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1951. During the Korean War, he served stateside in United States Air Force as an officer within the Air Force Office of Special Investigations from 1951 to 1953.

Specter graduated from Yale Law School in 1956 and was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar. That same year, he married Joan Levy. They reside in the East Falls section of Philadelphiamarker. They have two sons, Shanin and Stephen, and four grandchildren, Silvi, Perri, Lilli, and Hatti.

After graduating from Yale Law School, Specter opened a law practice, Specter & Katz, with Marvin Katz, who is now a Federal District Court Judge in Philadelphiamarker. Specter became an assistant district attorney under District Attorney James Crumlish, and was a member of the Democratic Party.

At the recommendation of Representative Gerald R. Ford, he worked for the Warren Commission, investigating the assassinationmarker of John F. Kennedy. As an assistant counsel for the commission, he authored or co-authored the controversial "single bullet theory," which suggested the non-fatal wounds to Kennedy and wounds to Texas Governor John Connally were caused by the same bullet. This was a crucial assertion for the Warren Commission, since if the two had been wounded by separate bullets, that would have demonstrated the presence of a second assassin and therefore a conspiracy.
Specter reproducing the assumed alignment of the single bullet theory
In 1965, Specter ran for District Attorney, on the Republican ticket as a registered Democrat. He handily beat incumbent Jim Crumlish, and subsequently changed his registration to Republican. Although a supporter of capital punishment, as prosecutor he questioned the fairness of the Pennsylvania death penalty statute in 1972.

In 1967, he was the Republican Party standard bearer together with City Controller candidate, Tom Gola, in the mayoral campaign against the Democratic incumbent James H. J. Tate. One of their slogans was, "We need THESE guys to watch THOSE guys." He served two terms as District Attorney for the City of Philadelphia.

In 1976, Specter ran in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate and was defeated by John Heinz. In 1978, he was defeated in the primary for Governor of Pennsylvania by Dick Thornburgh. After several years of private practice with the prestigious Philadelphia law firm Dechert, Price & Rhoads, Specter ran for the Senate in 1980, this time, successfully. He assumed office in January 1981.

Hodgkin's disease

On February 16, 2005, Specter announced that he had been diagnosed with an advanced form of Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer. Despite this, Specter continued working during chemotherapy. He ended treatment on July 22. Senator John Sununu (R-New Hampshiremarker) shaved his head to show solidarity with Specter when he was undergoing chemotherapy and was temporarily bald. On April 15, 2008, he announced his cancer had returned, at a stage "significantly less advanced than his Hodgkin's disease when it was originally diagnosed in 2005." He underwent a second round of chemotherapy, which ended on July 14, 2008.

Senate career

Senator Specter's official portrait
was first elected to the Senate in 1980. He is the longest-serving Senator in Pennsylvania's history; no one else from the state has been elected to five terms in that body. According to polls by Quinnipiac Universitymarker, Specter has a higher approval rating among Democrats in Pennsylvania than Republicans, 62–55 respectively.

His opposition to Supreme Courtmarker nominee Robert Bork in 1987 is seen as an important factor in the nomination's failure. However, he raised the ire of many Democrats with his aggressive questioning of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991, claiming she had committed "flat-out perjury" in her testimony.

In 1998 and 1999, Specter criticized the Republican Party for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Believing that Clinton had not received a fair trial, Specter cited Scots law to render a verdict of "not proven" on Clinton's impeachment. However, his verdict was recorded as "not guilty" in the Senate records.

In a 2002 PoliticsPA Feature story designating politicians with yearbook superlatives, he was named the "Toughest to Work For." In 2003, the Pennsylvania Report, a subscription-based political newsletter, described Specter as one of the "vanishing breed of Republican moderates" and described his political stance as "“Pennsylvania first” middle of-the-road politics" even though he was known as an "avid Republican partisan."

Soon after the 2004 election, Specter stepped into the public spotlight as a result of controversial statements about his views of the future of the Supreme Courtmarker. At a press conference, he stated that: Activist groups interpreted his comments as warnings to President George W. Bush about the implications of nominating Supreme Court justices who are opposed to the Roe v. Wade decision. Specter maintained his comments were a prediction, not a warning. He met with many conservative Republican senators, and based on assurances he gave them, he was recommended for the Judiciary Committee's chairmanship in late 2004. He officially assumed that position when the 109th Congress convened on January 4, 2005.

On March 9, 2006, the USA PATRIOT Act was signed into law. It amended the process for interim appointments of U.S. Attorneys, a clause which Specter wrote during his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The change allowed the Bush Administration to appoint interim U.S. attorneys without term limits, and without confirmation by the Senate. The Bush administration used the law to place at least eight interim attorneys into office in 2006. Specter claims that the changes were added by staff member Brett Tolman. For more information, see dismissal of U.S. Attorneys controversy.

Specter was very critical of Bush's wiretapping of US citizens without warrants. When the story first broke, he called the effort "inappropriate" and "clearly and categorically wrong." He said, he intended to hold hearings into the matter early in 2006, and had Alberto Gonzales appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer for the program (although Specter declined to force Gonzales to testify under oath). On January 15, 2006, Specter mentioned impeachment and criminal prosecution as potential remedies if Bush broke the law, though he downplayed the likelihood of such an outcome.

On April 9, 2006, Specter, speaking on Fox News about the Bush administration's leaking of classified intelligence, said that "The president of the United States owes a specific explanation to the American people"

However, he voted for the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which placed federal electronic searches almost entirely within the executive branch.

During the 2007–2008 National Football League season, Specter wrote to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell concerning the destruction of New England Patriots Spygate tapes, wondering if there was a link between the tapes and their Super Bowl victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. On February 1, 2008, Roger Goodell stated that the tapes were destroyed because "they confirmed what I already knew about the issue." Specter would release a follow up statement:

Since 2007 Specter has sponsored legislation to fix a longstanding inequity in American law which shuts out a majority of U.S. Armed Forces service members from equal access to the U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker. In 2007 Specter cosponsored the Equal Justice for United States Military Personnel Act of 2007 with Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). The bill failed in the 110th Congress, and Specter again cosponsored the measure in the 2009 111th Congress.

In December 2008 Specter was involved in a controversy as a result of telling "Polish jokes" at New York's Rainbow Room while speaking at the annual meeting of the Commonwealth Club [45222] This had not been his first run in with Americans of Central European descent. In 1998 Specter voted against admitting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO. [45223]

Specter voted in favor of the Senate's version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on February 10, 2009; he was one of only three Republicans to break ranks with the party and support the bill, which was favored by President Barack Obama and was unanimously supported by the Democratic senators. As a result of his support, many in the Republican mainstream have begun to set up attack ads calling for his removal from office. Specter was instrumental in ensuring that the act allocated an additional $10 billion to the National Institutes of Healthmarker over the next two years. Since becoming a Democrat in the Senate, Specter has been denied seniority on Senate committees.

Specter has called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Committee assignments

Specter holds the following committee assignments:

Specter was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1995, when the Republicans gained control of the Senate, until 1997, when he became chairman of the Committee on Veterans Affairs. He chaired that committee until 2001 and again from 2003 to 2005, during the times the Republicans controlled the Senate. He also chaired the Judiciary Committee from 2005 to 2007.


Arlen Specter campaigning for re-election

In 1980, Specter became the Republican nominee for Senate when Republican incumbent Richard Schweiker announced his retirement. He faced the former Mayor of Pittsburgh, Peter F. Flaherty. Specter won the election by a 2.5% margin. He was later reelected in 1986, 1992, 1998 and 2004, despite 1992 and 1998 being bad years for Republicans. Specter will run for reelection in 2010, for the first time as a Democrat.

1996 bid for the Presidency

On March 31, 1995, Specter announced his candidacy for President of the United States, to challenge the incumbent Bill Clinton. He entered the race claiming his party needed a candidate who did not conform to the stereotypical religious conservative image. He was critical of Patrick J. Buchanan, Pat Robertson and Ralph E. Reed, Jr., saying all three were far too conservative.

His campaign focused on balancing the federal budget, strict crime laws, and establishing relations with North Koreamarker. Specter said: His candidacy was not expected to succeed in winning the Republican nomination due to the overwhelmingly large number of social conservatives in the Republican Party. He was, however, able to gain support. Although fellow Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was never overly enthusiastic, he was supportive. Other supportive Republicans were hopeful Specter could trim the party's "far-right fringe." Although his campaign was ultimately unsuccessful at wooing conservatives, it was widely believed he could have had a strong showing among independents. On November 23, 1995, before the start of the primaries, Specter suspended his campaign to endorse Kansasmarker Senator Bob Dole.

2004 re-election campaign

In 2004, Specter faced a challenge in the Republican primary election from conservative Congressman Pat Toomey, whose campaign theme was that Specter was not fiscally conservative enough. The match-up was closely watched nationally, being seen as a symbolic clash between the conservative and moderate wings of the Republican Party. However, most of the state and national Republican establishment, including the state's other senator at the time, Rick Santorum closed ranks behind Specter. Specter was strongly supported by President George W. Bush. Specter narrowly avoided a major upset with 51 percent of the primary vote. Once Specter defeated the challenge from the right, he was able to enjoy great support from independents and some Democrats in his race against Hoeffel. Hoeffel also trailed Specter in name recognition, campaign funds and poll results. Although the two minor candidates were seen as more conservative than Specter, they were only able to take four percent of the vote and Specter was easily reelected.

2010 re-election campaign

Specter is up for re-election to the Senate in 2010, and he has expressed his plans to run again. On March 18, 2009, Specter said that he was not considering running as an independent. He said, "To eliminate any doubt, I am a Republican, and I am running for reelection in 2010 as a Republican on the Republican ticket." Subsequently Specter's 2004 conservative GOP primary challenger, Pat Toomey, announced he will again run for the Republican nomination in the Republican senatorial primary.

However, on April 28, 2009, Specter stated that "As the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party." He said that he is switching party affiliation and will run as a Democrat in the 2010 election. In the same announcement, Specter also said that he had "surveyed the sentiments of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania and public opinion polls, observed other public opinion polls and have found that the prospects for winning a Republican primary are bleak." A March 2009 Quinnipiac poll indicated that Specter trailed his likely primary challenger, Pat Toomey, by 14 percent (41 percent for Toomey 27 percent for Specter). Additional polling found that 70 percent of Pennsylvania Republicans disapproved of his recent vote in favor of the Stimulus Bill and that 52 percent of Pennsylvania Republicans disapprove of the job he is doing. Following Specter's switching parties, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele criticized his leaving the Republican Party, claiming that Specter had "flipped the bird" at the GOP.

Political views

Specter states that he is "personally opposed to abortion", but is "a supporter of a woman's right to choose". He received a 20 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2005 based on certain votes related to the regulation of abortion; in 2008, he received 100 percent

Specter strongly supports the death penalty and opposes most gun control, voting against the Brady Bill, background checks at gun shows, the ban on assault weapons, and trigger locks for handguns. His work has included numerous articles on the deterring effect the death penalty has on future crimes.

He supports affirmative action and voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1991, receiving a 76 percent rating from the NAACP in 2008. He was one of only four Republicans to vote against the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act and in recent years has been less enthusiastic about weakening consumer protection laws than many members of his party. In 1995 he was the only Republican to vote to limit tax cuts to individuals with incomes of less than one million dollars. He voted against CAFTA. Specter also supports an increase in the federal minimum wage. He is a leading supporter of the U.S. Public Service Academy.

On immigration, Specter supports a "pathway to citizenship" and a "guest worker program" which opponents call amnesty. He introduced Senate bill S. 2611 (the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006) on 6 April 2006, which was passed by the Senate on May 25, 2006 before reaching a stalemate in the House.

On health care reform, Specter is a cosponsor of the Healthy Americans Act, a proposal he supported during both the 110th and 111th Congresses. Though Specter has not formally taken a position on America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, the proposal currently under consideration by Congress, he has held various town hall meetings to discuss the issue, and all issues surrounding health care reform, with his constituents.. Specter believes single payer healthcare should not be "taken off the table"; in an interview he had with John King on CNN, Specter showed support for a public option.

Specter has received a 61 percent rating from AFL-CIO. He voted for cloture on the Employee Free Choice Act in 2007. The vote failed to reach the 60-vote threshold that would have ended debate on the bill and allow it to pass. In 2009, Specter announced that he would not be voting for cloture on the Act in the 111th Congress.

Specter supports LGBT rights with mixed positions. He voted to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation, and was a co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Specter is opposed to same-sex marriage, but is also opposed to a federal ban and supports civil unions.

The Jewish daily The Forward reported in the wake of the July 2009 organ trafficking scandal in the U.S. involving Rabbi Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn that an Organ Trafficking Prohibition Act of 2009, sponsored by Senator Specter, has yet to be officially introduced in the U.S., the preliminary reports cites Israel as a model of a country that has enacted a law providing benefits for organ donors.

Senator Specter criticized the federal government's policy on cancer, stating the day after Jack Kemp—the 1996 Republican vice presidential nominee and former congressman—died of cancer, that Kemp would still be alive if the federal government had done a better job funding cancer research.

Electoral history

See also


External links


CriticsThe term "doing a Spector" has now become a shorthand, in language among conservative Republicans, to describe untrustworthy Republicans.
Legislation sponsored or cosponsored
The following table links to the Congressional Record hosted by the Library of Congressmarker. All the specifics and actions taken for each individual piece of legislation that Senator Specter either sponsored or cosponsored can be viewed in detail there. "Original bills" and "'Original amendments" indicate instances where Sen. Specter pledged to support the legislation at the time it was initially introduced and entered into the Senate record, rather than later in the legislative process.

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