Arlen Specter

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U.S. Senator

Arlen Specter




Leadership: No leadership position
Committees: Senate Committee on Appropriations, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Senate Special Committee on Aging
(subcommittees and past assignments)

Candidates for the ME-Senate Class I Seat:
(Next election: 2 November 2010)

Confirmed: None so far
Considering: None so far
Rumored: None so far
Potential: None so far
Dropped-out: None so far
(more info and editing for the ME-Senate Class I Seat)
On the Web
Official website

Arlen Specter has been a Senator from Pennsylvania since 1981. On April 28, 2009, Specter announced he would be switching to the Democratic Party from the Republican Party and would run in the Democratic primary when he seeks re-election in 2010.


Record and controversies

Congressional scorecards

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Organization 2007 Scorecard
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2008 Scorecard
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American Civil Liberties Union not avail. not avail.
American Conservative Union not avail. not avail.
AFSCME not avail. not avail.
Americans for Democratic Action not avail. not avail.
Club for Growth not avail. not avail.
Drum Major Institute not avail. not avail.
Family Research Council not avail. not avail.
Information Technology Industry Council not avail. not avail.
League of Conservation Voters not avail. not avail.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People not avail. not avail.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce not avail. not avail.

Iraq War

Specter voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq in Oct. 2002.

On February 17, 2007, Specter was one of seven Republicans to cross party lines and vote in favor of cloture on a non-binding resolution opposing the troop "surge." The measure failed 56-34.

Main article: Congressional actions regarding President Bush’s 2007 proposed troop “surge” in Iraq
For more information see the chart of U.S. Senate votes on the Iraq War.

Troop Surge

In January 2007, during senate hearings on Congressional war powers Sen. Arlen Specter said, "I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider... The decider is a shared and joint responsibility". At this point it is not clear what option Sen. Specter is considering, however, as an experienced Republican Senator, this move is significant. [1]

Environmental record

For more information on environmental legislation, see the Energy and Environment Policy Portal

Restricting presidential signing statements

On July 26, 2006, Specter introduced legislation, the Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2006, to challenge President George W. Bush's use of Presidential signing statements, which have asserted his intentions not to enforce certain provisions of laws that he believes overstep his authority or interpretation of the Constitution. The bill would allow Congress to bring lawsuits to test the constitutionality of Bush's signing statements. An American Bar Association task force issued a report on July 24 saying Bush had violated the Constitution through his issuing of more than 800 statements, more than all other U.S. presidents combined. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) expressed disagreement with Specter over the issue, and believes Bush’s actions are constitutional. [2]

Main article: presidential signing statements

Impeachment trial of Bill Clinton

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

Abortion rights

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 Court, specifically in warning President Bush about the implications of nominating Supreme Court justices who are opposed to the Roe v. Wade decision.

Tax issues

Despite Specter's mixed voting record on tax issues, he is a strong advocate of the flat tax system. On May 15, 2003, an amendment submitted by him calling on the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Economic Committee to hold hearings and consider legislation providing for a flat tax, was passed 70-30, with every Republican colleague of his supporting the measure.

Warrantless surveillance

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

FBI interest in financial disclosure forms

In April 2006, the FBI reviewed Specter's financial disclosure forms. This action is historically rare. Specter was the second senator to have his records inspected during the 109th session of Congress. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) was the other, having been looked at previously in relation to campaign finance and earmarking investigations. Soon after, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) also had their records pulled in relation to similar investigations. Unlike the other legislators, however, Specter was not immediately named or implicated in any ongoing investigation. [3] Instead, it was revealed that the target of the probe was a staffer, Vicki Siegel Herson, who allegedly steered up to $50 million dollars in defense spending to clients of her husband, a lobbyist.[4]

Elimination of earmarks

In October of 2006, it was reported that Specter was considering eliminating all earmarks from the annual Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies spending measure. The bill falls under the jurisdiction of the sub-committee of the House Committee on Appropriations that Specter chairs. In explaining his reasoning for the possible move, he cited recent scandals involving Reps. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), Bob Ney (R-Ohio), and William Jefferson (D-La.). [5]

Allowing for unapproved U.S. Attorneys

On January 17, 2007 a spokesperson admitted that Specter made a last minute change to a bill in 2006 that would allow for the Executive to install U.S. Attorneys without the approval of the Senate. The Administration, shortly after the bill was passed, began to replace U.S. Attorneys with new, unapproved, ones. [6]

Television coverage of the Supreme Court

In February 2007, Specter reintroduced a bill requiring television coverage of oral arguments in the Supreme Court. Specter had introduced similar measures before, although none passed due to a fear that increased "notoriety would imperil the security of Supreme Court justices." Citing recent public appearance of justices of the Supreme Court on networks, cable television, and public debates, Specter said, "the court's work, the court's operation, ought to be more broadly understood... That can be achieved by television." [7]

Involvement in the U.S. Attorneys controversy

Specter's chief counsel inserted a provision in the 2006 reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act at the request of the Justice Department that allowed for the replacement of interim U.S. Attorneys. Specter later denied support and knowledge of the provision at the time of its passage. As Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Specter made several statements expressing concern over Attorney General Gonzales' credibility and ability to effectively do his job.

Main article: Bush administration U.S. attorney firings controversy

Restoring Habeas Corpus for detainees

The Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007 (S.185): "A bill to restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States," was introduced on January 4, 2007 in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Specter and committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-V.T.), with 18 cosponsors. On May 22, 2007, hearings were held on the bill by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and on Jun 7, 2007, the committee reported the bill favorably without amendment.

On December 5, 2006, Sen. Specter introduced the same bill in the 109th Congress as S.4081. The bill was read twice and referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

Main article: Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007

Support for stem cell research

Specter sponsored the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 which would have lifted restrictions on stem cell research. It passed the Senate in a vote of 63-34. It was later vetoed by President George W. Bush.[1]

Main article: U.S. federal stem cell legislation#Senate

Employee Free Choice Act

Specter was the only Republican in the Senate to support the Employee Free Choice Act. The act would make it easier for workers to unionize. The bill stalled in the Senate after failing to pass a cloture vote.[2]

Main article: Employee Free Choice Act



Born February 12, 1930 to a Jewish family in Russell, Kansas, Specter studied at universities before and after serving in the United States Air Force from 1951 to 1953. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951 and from Yale Law School in 1956. He passed the Pennsylvania Bar examination in 1956.

He soon became a prominent lawyer in Philadelphia and became active in politics, beginning his political life as a Democrat. He worked with the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of John F. Kennedy. As a chief counsel for the commission, he authored the controversial "single bullet theory."

He eventually became a Republican and scored an upset by winning a race for District Attorney in heavily Democratic Philadelphia, running on an anti-corruption platform against the Democratic machine. His slogan, deemed "brilliant" by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, was "We need these guys to watch those guys." He then mounted an unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 1973.

His wife, Joan Specter, is a former at-large member of the Philadelphia City Council.

Senate Career

In 1980, Specter became the Republican candidate for Senate when Republican incumbent Richard Schweiker announced his retirement. He had previously run for the Senate in 1976, but was defeated by John Heinz in the Republican primary.

Specter won and was reelected in 1986, 1992, 1998 and 2004. He was briefly a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination in the 1996 election, but dropped out early in the race. He 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, when the Republicans lost control of the Senate, becoming chairman again when they regained control in 2003.

A senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Specter was in line for the chairmanship in 2005 under the seniority system. However, conservatives began a campaign to deny him the chairmanship after his comments on Roe v. Wade and judicial nominees. Specter then 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. The Judiciary Committee is responsible for holding hearings federal judicial nominations made by the President, including Supreme Court nominees, for oversight of the Department of Justice, and for other matters.

On April 28, 2009, Specter announced he would be switching parties and would run in the Democratic primary when he seeks re-election in 2010.[3] [4] In a statement released to the press, Specter said:

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.[5]

and that

I deeply regret that I will be disappointing many friends and supporters. I can understand their disappointment. I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides. I thank specially Senators McConnell and Cornyn for their forbearance.[5]

Specter stated that, upon request, he would return contributions made to him during his time as a Republican candidate.[5]

Positions and Views

In 2004, Specter, who is often dubbed a "Republican In Name Only" (RINO) by more conservative critics, faced a challenge in the Republican primary election from conservative Congressman Pat Toomey. Toomey charged that Specter was too much of a liberal and big spender to represent the Republican Party. The match-up was closely watched nationally, being seen as a symbolic clash between the conservative and moderate wings of the Republican Party. With support from fellow Republican Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and President George W. Bush (though some say that they did purely because Specter was the incumbent and Toomey would have almost certainly lost the general election), Specter narrowly avoided a major upset with 52% of the vote. Some considered this primary battle to have damaged his re-election hopes, putting him to the right of his past moderate stances. He faced Democratic Congressman Joe Hoeffel, Betsy Summers of the Libertarian Party, and Constitution Party candidate James Clymer in November 2004's general election. He was easily reelected, becoming the longest-serving senator in Pennsylvania history (no other Pennsylvanian has ever served five terms in the Senate).

Specter is considered a moderate Republican. He is pro-choice on abortion and supports gay rights. However, he strongly supports the death penalty and opposes most gun control, voting against the Brady Bill, background checks at gunshows, 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 1990. He was one of only four Republicans to vote against the Private Securities Litigations Reform Act and in recent years has been less enthusiastic about lawsuit reform 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. His opposition to Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork is seen as one of the final nails in Bork's coffin. However, he raised the ire of many Democrats who had supported him for years with his aggressive questioning of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings.

Health Problems

On February 16, 2005, Specter announced that he had been diagnosed with an advanced form of Hodgkin's disease, a type of cancer. Despite the advanced form, Specter continued working during chemotherapy. He ended treatment on July 22 and having made a full recovery, chaired the hearings on John Roberts' and Samuel Alito's confirmations to the Supreme Court.

On April 16, 2008, Specter announced that he had been diagnosed with an early recurrence of Hodgkin's disease.[6] According to a statement released by his office, Specter said he plans to continue working and running for re-election. [7]

Money in politics

This section contains links to – and feeds from – money in politics databases. For specific controversies, see this article's record and controversies section.

Campaign contribution data could not be found.

Links to more campaign contribution information for Arlen Specter
from the Center for Responsive Politics' site.
Fundraising profile: 2008 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by organization/corporation: 2008 election cycle Career totals
Top contributors by industry: 2008 election cycle Career totals

Committees and Affiliations


Committees in the 110th Congress (2007-2008)

  • Senate Committee on Appropriations
    • Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies
    • Subcommittee on Defense
    • Subcommittee on Homeland Security
    • Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education
    • Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
    • Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury, Judiciary, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies
  • Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
  • Senate Committee on the Judiciary - Ranking Member
    • Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights
    • Subcommittee on the Constitution
    • Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs

Committee assignments in the 109th Congress (2005-2006)

  • Senate Committee on Appropriations
    • Subcommittee on Agriculture Rural Development and Related Agencies
    • Subcommittee on Defense
    • Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations and Related Programs
    • Subcommittee on Homeland Security
    • Subcommittee on Labor Health and Human Services Education and Related Agencies - Chair
    • Subcommittee on Transportation Treasury the Judiciary and Housing and Urban Development
  • Senate Committee on the Judiciary - Chair
    • Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts
    • Subcommittee on Antitrust Competition Policy and Consumer Rights
    • Subcommittee on the Constitution Civil Rights and Property Rights
    • Subcommittee on Corrections and Rehabilitations
  • Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Coalitions and Caucuses

  • Congressional Coalition on Adoption
  • Republican Policy Committee
  • Senate Centrist Coalition
  • Senate Rural Health Caucus
  • Chair, Senate Steel Caucus
  • Senate Textile Committee
  • Senate Wednesday Group

Boards and other Affiliations

  • Member, Pennsylvania State Planning Board
  • Member, White House Conference on Youth

More Background Data

Wikipedia also has an article on Arlen Specter. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.


DC office
  • 154 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510
    Ph: 202-224-5344 Fax: 202-224-1946
    Webform email
District offices
  • Suite 3814, Federal Building, 504 West Hamilton, Allentown, PA 18101
    Ph: 610-434-1444 Fax: (none entered)
  • Federal Building, Suite B-120, 17 South Park Row, Erie, PA 16501
    Ph: 814-453-3010 Fax: (none entered)
  • Room 1104, Federal Building, 228 Walnut Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101
    Ph: 717-782-3951 Fax: (none entered)
  • 600 Arch Street, Suite 9400, Philadelphia, PA 19106
    Ph: 215-597-7200 Fax: (none entered)
  • Regional Enterprise Tower, 425 Sixth Avenue, Suite 1450, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
    Ph: 412-644-3400 Fax: (none entered)
  • 310 Spruce Street, Suite 201, Scranton, PA 18503
    Ph: 570-346-2006 Fax: (none entered)
  • 7 North WIlkes Barre Boulevard, Stegmaier Building, Room 377M, Wilkes Barre, PA 18702
    Ph: 570-826-6265 Fax: (none entered)
On the Web
Campaign office
  • No campaign website entered.
  • No campaign webform email entered.
  • No campaign office information entered.

Articles and resources



  1. Jeffrey Young. "Senate passes stem cell research bill," The Hill. April 11, 2007.
  2. Joel Havemann. "Senate Republicans block union bill," Los Angeles Times. June 27, 2007.
  3. "Arlen Specter Switches Parties," Talking Points Memo, April 28, 2009
  4. "Specter To Switch Parties,", April 28, 2009
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "Statement by Senator Arlen Specter", Talking Points Memo, April 28, 2009.
  6. AP "Specter Announces Cancer Recurrence", The New York Times, April 16, 2008, Accessed April 16, 2008
  7. MSNBC staff "Specter addresses cancer recurrence", MSNBC News, April 16, 2008, Accessed April 16, 2008

See also


Local blogs and discussion sites

Semantic data (Edit data)