Arlen served at various times as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Select Committee on Intelligence, and Judiciary Committee. There can be no doubt, however, that his work on the Senate Judiciary Committee was closest to his heart – and that the high point of his service in Congress was serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Even his opponents had to admit that he had a keen legal mind and a true love for the law.
One of Senator Specter’s great successes was his battle to increase federal funding for research at the National Institutes of Health. Many of us worked to achieve that goal, but his seniority on the Senate Appropriations Committee put him in a powerful position to secure more funding for NIH. It’s impossible to calculate the number of lives saved or aided by the additional research that was done as a result, but I have no doubt that it’s in the tens of millions. I can’t think of a finer legacy.
Arlen’s independence was legendary. He was never a guy who voted the party line. He did whatever he thought his constituents wanted, not what his party leadership told him to do. Most recently, for example, he bucked the Republican Congressional leadership and voted in favor of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act bill and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – two landmark laws that helped turn our economy around and ended decades of abusive insurance industry practices.
In recent decades, Arlen fought off serious health challenges – heart trouble, a brain tumor, and repeated attacks of lymphatic cancer – but he never stopped fighting back or working hard to meet his responsibilities as an elected official, even in the middle of chemotherapy. While Arlen and I disagreed on a number of public policy issues, I could never help but be inspired by his toughness and strength.
Arlen Specter was truly one of those larger than life public figures. He served his country well, he lived a remarkable life, and he will be deeply missed. I want to extend my sympathy to his wife Joan, his sons, and the rest of his family.
Doyle represents Pennsylvania's 14th Congressional District.