At a Glance
- Career History:
Practicing Attorney (1974 to 1980);
District Attorney (1965 to 1973); Assistant Counsel, Warren Commission (1964)
- Birthday: Feb. 12, 1930
- Hometown: Russell, Kan.
- Alma Mater: University of Pennsylvania, B.A. (International Relations), 1951; Yale Law School, J.D., 1956
- Spouse: Joan
- Religion: Jewish
- DC Office: 711 Hart Senate Office Building, 202-228-1229
- State Offices: Allentown, 610-434-1444; Erie, 814-453-3010; Harrisburg, 717-782-3951; Philadelphia, 215-597-7200; Pittsburgh, 412-644-3400; Scranton, 570-346-2006; Wilkes-Barre, 570-826-6265
- Web site
Path to Power
Specter was born in Wichita, Kan., and was raised in nearby Russell, which is also the hometown of former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.). Despite financial struggles, his father, a Russian immigrant who juggled a wide array of jobs including working as a tailor and owning a junkyard, sent Specter and his three siblings to college.
Specter attended the University of Pennsylvania. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, then served in the Air Force from 1951 to 1953. After graduating from Yale Law School, Specter returned to Philadelphia where he practiced law.
Up until his party switch, Specter's top priorities have been asbestos litigation reform, promoting biomedical research and protecting Constitutional rights by curtailing executive power. Specter's voting record places him straight down the middle of the partisan divide, and several key votes have put the lawmaker at increasing odds with his party. He sided with Senate Democrats on Bush 's 2001 tax cuts; the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear explosions; increasing the minimum wage; and HMO regulation. He twice blocked a Bush administration-backed overhaul of overtime-pay regulations, which was strongly opposed by labor unions. In the 110th Congress , Specter voted with the Republican Party 70.6 percent of the time.
Specter generally supports abortion rights. His position on the issue almost prevented him from winning the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee in 2005 after he came under fire from social conservatives for reportedly warning President Bush not to nominate judges who were in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade . But Specter did vote with his party to override President Bill Clinton 's veto of a ban on partial-birth abortions. And his support of conservative judicial nominees has earned him mixed reviews from pro-abortion rights groups. NARAL Pro-Choice America gave Specter a 100 percent score in 2007 and his 1998 Senate bid was endorsed by the group's Pennsylvania chapter. But in 2004, the organization's president declared Specter "emphatically not pro-choice" because of his 'yes' votes on conservative court nominees and abstinence education programs.
Ending Asbestos Lawsuits
Specter has developed a close relationship with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D- Vt.), with whom he shares a seat on the Judiciary Committee and a commitment to preserving constitutional rights. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is also a confidante. Specter also has had a long relationship with Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell . The fellow UPenn alumnus was Specter's first hire upon joining the Philadelphia district attorney's office.