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Public Statements

Casting 10,000 Votes

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I come to the point where no other Senator is seeking recognition, and we are through expediting the work of the clerks, so I am going to make a statement reflecting on my 10,000th vote.

The circumstances are somewhat unusual. I cast the vote and expected to
depart the Chamber, but I found my distinguished colleague, Senator Casey, prepared to make some comments about my 10,000th vote. He could not make those comments for about an hour because the train was late and some Senators hadn't arrived and the vote was kept open. So a very unusual situation for me personally. I had nothing to do but to sit and think, and I was reflecting upon the 10,000 votes. That is what I am going to talk about now.

I would not expect the Senator from Illinois to stay to listen to this because it might delay his arrival at the gym, which is very early tomorrow morning. I will be there at about 6:30 a.m. I don't know how long he will have been there, but for quite awhile. I thank Senator Durbin once again for his kind remarks.

The occasion of reflecting on 10,000 votes in the Senate is something I have been thinking about for the past hour plus, as we awaited Senators to arrive to a vote, and then having yielded to two other Senators. I thought about why I got into public life, why I decided to run for office, and that is hard to say. But I believe it was at the inspiration of my parents.

My story is a common one: immigrant parents, father served in World War I, was wounded in action in the Argonne Forest, carried shrapnel in his legs until the day he died, and was one of the veterans who was promised a $500 bonus. The government reneged on the promise--did not pay the veterans a bonus--as the government reneges on so many promises to the veterans. So there was a famous march on Washington during the Hoover administration when I was a child.

President Hoover called out the Army, and they fired on veterans and killed veterans--one of the blackest days in American history. I think that event, as a young child, was emblazoned in my mind. I saw the deep anguish of my father, and mother too. This was during the Depression.

My father had always had a very deep concern about government because he lived under the tyranny of the czar. The czar wanted to send him to Siberia when he was 18 years old, in 1911, when he emigrated to the United States. I think that experience motivated me to want to go into public life.

I had always had a very deep concern about civil liberties, as a member of a minority group myself, to be able to deal with that issue in a governmental capacity. The 10,000 votes have come and gone in a hurry, and I was reflecting on the Reagan years. I was elected in 1980, the same day President Reagan was elected. There are many highlights of the tenure during his 8 years, but I think especially about September 17, 1987. That is an easy date to remember because it marked the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States.

To commemorate the 200th anniversary there was a ceremony in Philadelphia, and President Reagan went to Philadelphia to participate in the ceremony. He invited me to go with him. He invited Senator Heinz as well, but Senator Heinz had other commitments that day and did not go.

It was a fascinating experience to travel alone with the President, to talk to him on Air Force One and in the Presidential limousine. When we arrived at Independence Hall, they had a great wheel, and the wheel started with George Washington, the first President, and then John Adams, and all the way around until it came to Ronald Reagan right next to George Washington. He and I talked about the drama he experienced on the wheel right next to President Washington.

On that particular week, we had the confirmation hearings of Judge Bork for the Supreme Court of the United States. On September 17, when I traveled to Philadelphia with the President, it was a Thursday, and I missed my opportunity to question Judge Bork. I got that opportunity on Saturday morning. There were only a few people there, and I had an opportunity to question Judge Bork for an hour and a half and ultimately played a key role in the rejection of the nomination of Judge Bork, who believed in original intent and had a very different view of the Constitution. He did not believe in due process of law. That was not part of the Constitution. And he disagreed with the incorporation of the 10 amendments to the due process clause to apply to the States. That was a momentous Supreme Court hearing.

During the years of President George H.W. Bush, there were many matters of note. One that stands out was the affirmation proceeding as to Justice Souter. When Justice Souter was up for confirmation, I participated in that as a member of the Judiciary Committee, as I had participated in the confirmation hearing of Judge Bork. The pro-choice groups were apprehensive about Judge Souter becoming Justice Souter. I examined his record very carefully and thought that he would read the precedents of Roe v. Wade in a favorable light and supported his confirmation. Then he became a stalwart for a woman's right to choose and a stalwart for constitutional principles involving civil rights and individual freedom.

During the years with President Clinton, I chaired the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services and Education, and at that time had an opportunity to take the lead in increasing education funding very substantially. Pell grants were raised very materially. They had been at $2,400, and the committee then moved them up, and now they are in excess of $5,000.

I also took the lead in helping the working men and women through funding for the Department of Labor and for the National Labor Relations Board and for mine safety, OSHA, and MENSHA.

Then on the funding for health, as has already been noted, I took the lead with the concurrence of Senator Harkin, who was then minority ranking member, to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health from $12 billion to $30 billion. During the decade I chaired the committee, that enormously increased the availability of grants. Some years as much as $3.5 billion was added to the funding of the National Institutes of Health. Then when the stimulus package came up, I offered the amendment and led the battle to add an additional $10 billion. NIH had slipped back because of across-the-board cuts and failure to have cost-of-living adjustments, but the $10 billion in the stimulus package has provided 15,000 grants and has stimulated the interest in a whole generation of sciences.

Senator Menendez commented a few moments ago--in talking about my 10,000 votes--how those research grants have led to enormous savings and in the prolonging of lives and saving of lives on many strains of cancer and with enormous strides being made in research into heart disease and autism and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

During the administration of George W. Bush, again there were many momentous events. To mention one, because time is running, I led the fight for embryonic stem cell research, the Specter-Harkin bill, to use Federal funds to use stem cells, which had enormous potential for curing the maladies of the world--a veritable fountain of youth--by injecting stem cells into diseased cells.

President Bush vetoed the Specter-Harkin bill. He vetoed it twice. But now with President Obama there has been an Executive order, and Senator Harkin and I are continuing to push for legislation because legislation has more permanency than an Executive order. An Executive order can be changed by the next President.

Then the administration of President Obama. I got to know Senator Barack Obama. He had his office down the corridor from me on the seventh floor of the Hart Senate Office building. When he came forward with his proposal for a stimulus and I took a look at what was happening in the economy, I was concerned that we would slip back into a 1929 depression if we did not pass the stimulus bill. I voted for the stimulus bill on this floor and commented about the political peril. It has had a profound effect on my political life, which I will not discuss here. But had the stimulus package not been passed I think we would not have been in the great recession which we are in, but we would have been in another Great Depression. My own State, Pennsylvania, has received $16 billion. Without that funding from the stimulus package there would not be unemployment compensation paid today; there wouldn't be Medicaid paid today. It has the potential for 143,000 new jobs. It is only halfway through the cycle of 2 years. It passed in mid-February, not even a year old, and we see the financial problems of California. Where would California be without the stimulus? Where would any of the States be without the stimulus?

The stimulus package and other proposed Federal expenditures have caused quite a public reaction so that there is great concern in America today with what is going on in Washington. People are very concerned, as am I, about the deficit and about the national debt. We are going to be called upon to raise the national debt again.

When I was elected in the Senate, the national debt was $1 trillion. During the tenure of President Reagan, those 8 years, it increased to $3 trillion. President Reagan was the great economizer on his fiscal policies, but we have no choice when it comes to raising debt because if we do not raise the national debt we will be in default. The debt is being used to pay for many obligations, including the support of our troops in Afghanistan, which I will comment about in a few moments.

In the spring of this year--April, May, June, July--there was tremendous worry about what the Federal Government was talking about spending: $1 trillion on health care reform; $1 trillion on cap and trade, on climate control. There was great public opposition that arose to what was happening in Washington. It was promoted by the gridlock which is present in this Chamber, spoken about by Senator Menendez and Senator Lautenberg a few moments ago; by the filibusters which are being carried on by Republicans.

A few years ago filibusters were being carried on by Democrats and President Bush's judicial nominees were the subject of filibusters. The business about filibusters and about gridlock is a problem on both parties. It is a matter for bipartisan blame. It is my hope we will find more Senators--Senator Menendez commented on my willingness to reach across the aisle. I did that on the other side of the aisle and I do that on this side of the aisle. When I came to the Senate in 1980 there were many moderate Republican Senators who reached across the aisle. We had Senator Hatfield from Oregon--we were just discussing that the distinguished Presiding Officer brought me greetings from Senator Hatfield, the Senator from Oregon--and Senator Packwood, also a moderate from Oregon; Senator Danforth from Missouri; Senator Weicker from Connecticut; Senator Chafee from Rhode Island; Senator Stafford from Vermont; Senator Warner from Virginia; Senator Heinz from Pennsylvania; Senator Mathias from Maryland. I could go on and on. Today the moderates on the other side of the aisle, with my departure, can fit in a telephone booth. It is not good for the Senate and it is not good for the country.

When I undertook the town meetings this year--I made it a practice, in my tenure in the Senate, 30 years, to visit almost every county almost every year. At the first county I went to in August, the first day I had an opportunity to travel when the Senate was not in session--usually when I got to Lebanon County there were 85 or 100 people. On this occasion there were 1,200 people. They had live television transmission units from MSNBC and FOX and CNN. There was enormous anger about what was happening in America with the spending, what was happening with the deficit, what was happening with the national debt.

Those are problems which we yet have to face. I get the question in my candidacy for reelection. I am seeking a sixth term. I want to follow Senator Biden, the most recent six-term Senator.

People say: Why run now? Why, after serving for 30 years, being the longest serving Pennsylvania Senator? People notice I have a big birthday coming up. I was born on February 12, the same day as Lincoln's birthday. I was born 121 years after Abraham Lincoln was born. That is as close as I will come to talking about age.

I believe with Satchel Paige, the great baseball pitcher, who was ageless. Satchel Paige made many famous statements. One of his most famous statements was: If you didn't know your age, how old would you think you were? I choose 37. I choose 37 because nobody would believe 17. That was a happy year in my life. I think there is a psychological term called ``arrested development.'' That may have occurred to me at 17.

But why run now? Because there are so many things to be done. There are so many important problems. The experience and seniority and the knowledge I think can be put to good use for the 12 million constituents I have.

There is a great facet on term limits--it is called losing at the polls. The people can say yes or no to a candidacy for reelection, but I am full of vim, vigor, and vitality, and there are a lot of things I want to do. My four granddaughters are very much on my mind, as will their children and their grandchildren be.

We have health care reform which is still pending in the Congress of the United States. It has been a very difficult matter which has consumed this body and the House of Representatives for months. The House can pass it more quickly than can the Senate. We worked on it for the better part of 6 months and we passed it here. It is well documented that it took 60 votes because there was not a single Republican who would support cloture. There had to be 60 Democrats who would agree. That led to a lot of concessions being made to get the 60 votes.

Some Senators insisted on special consideration for their States. I think that was wrong. Why did I vote for the package? Because the good vastly outweighed the bad.

I was asked, in Pennsylvania, why didn't I get some special consideration for Pennsylvania? I didn't because I thought it was the wrong thing to do. I was on a radio program last week, a critical radio program, for what is going on in Washington. But I got a compliment for not asking for special consideration.

We have a new Senator-elect in Massachusetts and we ought not to do anything in the interim until he is seated. Then there will be 59, so not enough to shut off a filibuster by the Republicans. So the question is: Where do we go from here?

President Obama has talked about a number of alternatives. A week ago last Wednesday, after the Massachusetts election, he was talking about a pared-down bill. I doubt that could pass the Senate. It would be unfortunate if all the work that has been done on the historic health care reform were to be nullified. The health care bill ran into great problems because of misrepresentations. There are no death panels in the health care bill. In my town meetings people were talking about death panels. I told them authoritatively and accurately, there were no death panels.

There was a worry about a government takeover of health care. That was not the bill. There was a government option. I was for a robust government option, leaving the private sector in place but taking steps to give a choice to people who wanted to buy insurance. But to get insurance reform to eliminate preexisting conditions as a way for insurance companies to maneuver and decline to pay claims, or the cancellation of insurance when somebody got sick, or not covering children--so many of the insurance lies.

I think it would be unfortunate if all we did were nullified. One way to approach it would be for the House to pass the Senate bill--that would be my recommendation--and then to have immediate corrective legislation on a number of the points which went too far--on the special favors for certain States. I believe there would be support on the other side of the aisle and we could correct the abusive practices if the House were to adopt the Senate bill.

But I respect the House. I read what the Speaker had to say about the disinclination to adopt the Senate bill. It has been a long time in coming to get reform. Legislation which is enacted is subject to modification. It has to move in steps. We could only get to the 1965 Voting Right Act because we had the 1957 legislation and the 1964 legislation. There are opportunities for changes and the abusive facets and the wrongful provisions in the Senate bill, if taken by the House, could be corrected. I think there would be support on both sides of the aisle for that.

There are a great many items on my agenda. One of the concerns I have is the issue of imports, illustratively from China, where they are subsidized and take unfair advantage of the trade laws. I have appeared many times before the International Trade Commission--something I had done in private
practice as a lawyer on appellate arguments in court. I won a big case preserving a lot of jobs several months ago on the tire industry, stopping China from sending tires into the United States which were subsidized.

I won a big case in the ITC, that I was the lead advocate on, on the steel industry, to stop China from selling steel in the United States.

I have been working on a project to deepen the Port of Philadelphia from 40 to 45 feet. Senator Heinz and I got authorizing legislation in 1983. It took until 1992 to get the Corps of Engineers to say it was economically sustainable. Then I worked on the Appropriations Committee, with my seniority, to get more than $77 million appropriated. It has been contested by the State of Delaware on environmental concerns which have been answered totally by environmental impact studies. Recently, we were successful in getting the Secretary of the Army to invoke the supremacy clause.

But there is still more work to be done on that. I am working hard for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, working on manufacturing of vaccines. We have been short of vaccines and we cannot rely upon foreign sources. That is a multimillion dollar project working and has the promise of thousands of jobs for that area.

I am working on northeast Pennsylvania to get a train from Scranton to Hoboken, ``Wall Street West''; working for the farmers on milk dairy prices; with General Electric to keep the GE plant open and jobs there; working, in my position on the Environment and Public Works Committee, on climate control; working on immigration reform.

As chairman, I managed the bill through the Senate in the 2006. I am working on the issue of campaign finance reform. The Supreme Court, last week, came down with a decision to allow corporations to engage in political advertising to elect or defeat candidates which will, as Justice Stevens in dissent pointed out, open the door for widespread corruption and am considering the issue of a Constitutional amendment which would reverse that decision and allow Congress and States to set limits on campaign finance. I have been working for a decade to try to get the Supreme Court televised for transparency. They make all the cutting-edge decisions.

I have been very active on foreign policy. There are many things I am working on at the present time. Within the last month, I made a trip to Afghanistan and Syria and India. My study of the situation in Afghanistan leads me to oppose the President's plan to send 30,000 additional troops. I think we have to do whatever it takes to fight al-Qaida because they are out to annihilate us. But why fight them in Afghanistan when they can just as easily organize in Yemen or Somalia or elsewhere?

On the efforts to get help from the Pakistanis, not being very successful. In India, our Congressional delegation met with Prime Minister Singh. I put the question to him, would he be willing to have a limitation with Pakistan on the number of troops on the border, which would liberate Pakistani troops to help us fight al-Qaida in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Singh said he would, if the terrorists would be stopped from coming into India, as they blew up the hotel in Mumbai more than a year ago. So there are many things to be done. Our Congressional delegation visited Syria. I have visited the Mideast, almost every area, during my tenure in the Senate. I am very much concerned about the security of Israel.

In the visits I have had with Syria, I have gotten to know Bashar al-Assad, the Prime Minister of Syria, and his father, Hafiz al-Assad, because I believe Syria is the key to the peace process there.

Syria wants a return of the Golan. Only Israel can decide whether Israel wants to give back the Golan. But it is a different era today than it was in 1967, when the Golan was so important strategically. Today, rockets obviate the defensive posture of the Golan Heights. But only Israel can decide that for itself. But if Israel could get concessions for Syria to stop destabilizing Lebanon or stop supporting Hamas, that is an issue which ought to be considered.

Well, the hour is growing late. We are keeping staff here. But I thought this occasion, on the 10,000th vote, as I said, I sat here for about 1 hour waiting for the vote to end before Senator Casey could make his comments, gave me a few moments to reflect on why I was interested in running for public office originally, what those 10,000 votes meant to me with a very brief statement as to some of those votes during the administrations of President Reagan, the first President Bush, President Clinton, the second President Bush, President Obama, and what I would like to see done in the future.

There is much to be done on so many lines. I have said to Senator Casey, who has been here only 3 years, I would like to be here to speak to him on his 10,000th vote. I do not entertain that seriously. But the issues I have talked about are ones that are very important to me and I think to the future of my State and I think to the future of my Nation.


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