By Alexander Bolton - 03/23/12 10:00 AM EDT
Former Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) says he might vote for Mitt Romney in November, depending on which version of Romney shows up for the general election.
“I’m going to wait to see which Romney it is,” said Specter in an interview with The Hill at his elegant apartment in Georgetown.
Specter, who gave President Obama the 60th vote needed to pass landmark healthcare reform legislation through the Senate, applauded Romney for signing similar reforms into law while serving as governor of Massachusetts.
Specter had served more than 28 years in the Senate representing Pennsylvania as a Republican and chaired the Judiciary Committee during the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
Now a registered Democrat, Specter says he does not regret voting for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which extends healthcare benefits to more than 30 million uninsured Americans.
“The legislation to provide maximum healthcare coverage in America is a sound decision. I think Romney was right when he did that. I think that’s a right decision,” Specter said.
Romney met with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a leading Senate conservative, and other lawmakers on Thursday to assure them he is committed to repealing the 2010 healthcare reform law if elected president.
“He certainly volunteered that,” said DeMint. “He’s committed to — one of the first acts is to give waivers to every state and then hopefully we can officially repeal the thing through legislation."
Some conservatives suspect Romney will shift to the center once he captures the GOP nomination. Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to Romney’s campaign, fueled those suspicions Wednesday by likening Romney’s policy platform to an Etch A Sketch toy that can be erased easily.
Specter spoke to The Hill on Wednesday to promote his new memoir, Life Among the Cannibals, written with his former communications director, Charles Robbins.
Specter’s book details the final days of his bid to win the 2010 Pennsylvania Democratic primary, as well as the behind-the-scenes events leading to and following his historic party switch.
Despite Specter’s support of the stimulus, healthcare reform and Wall Street reform, Obama turned down Specter’s plea for campaign help in the final days of the primary. The rejection was made more painful by the circumstance that Obama flew over Philadelphia en route to New York City a few days before the election.
Specter says he is hesitant to vote for Obama in November because of doubts over the president’s foreign- and economic-policy decisions.
“I want to see what Obama does,” Specter said. “I was against his Afghanistan policy. I opposed sending 30,000 additional troops there. I think he made a terrible mistake in extending the tax cuts. He did that on his own. I opposed that strenuously. He did that while I was in the Senate in 2010. I think his economic policies have not been strong, so I want to wait and see what happens.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a leading voice for bipartisanship in the upper chamber, told The Hill on Tuesday that he believes Obama should have extended the George W. Bush-era tax rates for only one year after the 2010 midterm election.
Many Democrats have qualms about the deal Obama struck with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) after the midterm election to extend nearly all of the tax rates set under Bush. Obama won a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits in return.
Earlier this year, Specter floated to the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board the idea of replacing Obama with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Democratic presidential ticket.
Specter said a White House official called his son Shanin afterward and “tried to raise hell” about the comment.
“Shanin gave him a short answer: my telephone number. They didn’t call me,” Specter recalled.
Specter’s bid for reelection to a sixth term became swept up in anti-government anger that washed across the country during Obama’s first year in office.
He said the president made a political mistake by pushing an overly ambitious agenda after winning the 2008 election.
“He went wrong by unloading too much too soon,” Specter said. “He came forward with three trillion-dollar proposals. He had cap-and-trade, he had healthcare and he had the stimulus package, and that was more than America could swallow. That led to the outbursts once they had a chance.”
Congressional passage of a $787 billion economic stimulus was Obama’s first major legislative victory. His comprehensive plan to limit carbon emissions through a complex cap-and-trade regulatory framework failed to reach the Senate floor.