Tag Archives: moderate

With presidential pen, Trump could remake Supreme Court agenda

Even before Donald Trump chooses a Supreme Court nominee, the new president can take steps to make several contentious court cases go away. Legal challenges involving immigration, climate change, cost-free contraceptive care and transgender rights all could be affected, without any help from Congress.

The cases turn on Obama administration policies that rely on the president’s pen, regulations or decisions made by federal agencies.

And what one administration can do, the next can undo.

It is not uncommon for the court’s docket to change when one party replaces the other in the White House. That change in direction is magnified by the high-court seat Trump will get to fill after Senate Republicans refused to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.

“We were hoping we’d be looking forward to a progressive majority on the Supreme Court. After the election results, there is a new reality,” said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.

The Supreme Court already is set to consider a case involving a transgender teen who wants to use the boys’ bathroom at his Virginia high school. When the federal appeals court in Richmond ruled in student Gavin Grimm’s favor this year, it relied on a determination by the U.S. Education Department that federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education also applies to gender identity.

The new administration could withdraw the department’s guidance, which could cause the justices to return the case to the lower courts to reach their own decision about whether the law requires schools to allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on their gender identity.

“It is possible, maybe even likely, that if the first question went away, then the court would send case back to the 4th circuit” in Richmond, said Steven Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents Grimm.

Trump already has pledged to undo Obama’s plan to shield millions of people living in the country without documentation from deportation and to make them eligible for work permits. The Supreme Court, down to eight members after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February, split 4 to 4 in June over the plan. The tie vote effectively killed the plan for Obama’s presidency because lower federal courts had previously blocked it.

But the issue remains a live one in the legal system, and supporters of the Obama plan had hoped that a new Clinton administration would press forward.

Now, though, all Trump has to do is rescind the Obama team’s actions, which would leave the courts with nothing to decide.

A similar fate may be in store for the current administration’s efforts to get cost-free birth control to women who are covered by health plans from religiously-affiliated educational and charitable organizations. The justices issued an unusual order in the spring that directed lower courts across the country to seek a compromise to end the legal dispute. The groups already can opt out of paying for contraception, but they say that option leaves them complicit in providing government-approved contraceptives to women covered by their plans.

The new administration could be more willing to meet the groups’ demands, which would end the controversy.

Women’s contraceptives are among a range of preventive services that the Obama health overhaul requires employers to cover in their health plans. All of that now is at risk, since Trump has called for repeal of the health care law.

Obama’s Clean Power Plan, calling for cuts in carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants, also could be rolled back once Trump is in office.

The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., is considering a challenge by two-dozen mostly Republican-led states that say Obama overstepped his authority. The Trump team could seek to undo the rules put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency and it could seek a delay in the litigation while doing so, said Sean Donahue, a lawyer for the Environmental Defense Fund. Trump’s EPA would have to propose its own rules, which allow for public comment and legal challenges from those who object, Donahue said.

Environmental groups effectively fought rules that they said eased pollution limits during George W. Bush’s presidency.

As some issues pushed by Obama recede in importance, others that have been important to conservatives may get renewed interest at the court. Among those are efforts to impose new restrictions on public-sector labor unions and to strike down more campaign-finance limits, including the ban on unlimited contributions to political parties.

Delegates: Kaine appeals to moderates, not disenchanted Sanders supporters

Delegates to the Democratic National Convention say Hillary Clinton’s choice of Tim Kaine for VP will appeal to moderates, but do little to soothe disenchanted Bernie Sanders supporters.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia received praise for his wide-ranging experience, even as many delegates acknowledged that he would not generate the level of enthusiasm or party unity as a progressive or first-ever Latino pick.

Sanders delegates in particular hoped for the selection of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who aligns more closely with Sanders on positions such as regulating Wall Street.

“People are going to discount Tim Kaine, and have in the past, and it’s going to be a lot more exciting than maybe what Bernie Sanders delegates will think,” said Katie Naranjo, a Clinton superdelegate from Austin, Texas.

She said Kaine may seem like a “conventional choice,” but he will balance the ticket well for the general election, as the Democrats take on billionaire Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Delegates this weekend are heading to Philadelphia for their convention that starts Monday, with those who support Sanders indicating uncertainty about embracing a Clinton ticket. Sanders endorsed Clinton earlier this month.

It “was a horrible pick,” Angie Morelli, a Sanders delegate from Nevada, said of Clinton selecting Kaine. “In a time when she is trying to cater to Sanders supporters, it was more catering to conservative voters and she’s not going to get any wave from it.”

Morelli said she’s bothered by Kaine’s association with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a global trade pact that Sanders and Clinton say they oppose.

Dwight Bullard, a Florida state senator, said not one of the 70-plus Sanders delegates in his state including himself is happy with Kaine’s selection.

He worried the centrist choice could magnify progressives’ view that Clinton will backtrack on issues important to them, such as climate change and tuition aid for college students.

“If you bring in someone with great credentials, that’s fine, but inclusivity of the progressive agenda can be a more important message,” Bullard said.

Sanders delegates were mulling ways to show support for Sanders during the convention, such as a walkout after the roll call of states on July 26, according to excerpts of a Slack thread on July 22 obtained by The Associated Press.

But many others also said they wanted to get direction from Sanders, who was scheduled to meet privately with his delegates on July 25.

“Delegates are intensely discussing and considering options,” said Norman Solomon, a San Francisco delegate who called Kaine’s selection “unacceptable.”

Solomon leads the Bernie Delegates Network, a loose organization of more than 1,200 delegates.

Clinton settled on Kaine after vetting a diverse group of candidates that included Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and Labor Secretary Tom Perez. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, one of two black senators, also was considered.

Clinton delegate Roger Salazar of California said he had been  rooting for Clinton to select U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra, a Hispanic and one of the most powerful Democrats in the House.

But Salazar, a longtime party strategist, called Kaine “a pretty solid choice.”

Jocelyn Bucaro, an Ohio superdelegate and Clinton supporter, praised Kaine as someone who would appeal to a broad range of voters in swing states, including Republicans who are uncomfortable with Trump.

“The most important consideration is his ability to step in as president, and he clearly has the experience, knowledge, intelligence and temperament to do that,” Bucaro said.

Prep for tonight’s Democratic debate? | A background guide

The Democrats’ debate lineup is down to a tidy trio, now that two of their presidential candidates have quit the race.

That should make it easier to keep the debaters straight: the woman, the socialist and … who’s that other guy? Oh yeah, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. 

The new math gives O’Malley, barely registering in polls so far, better odds of getting noticed Saturday night in this second go-round for Democrats.

A guide to the personalities taking the stage in Des Moines, Iowa, for the CBS broadcast.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON

Key features: Nearly everybody recognizes her. She’s the only candidate who’s lived in the White House already, as first lady.

A quick sketch:

_ Daughter of a fabric store owner and a homemaker living in the Chicago suburbs.

_ Met her future husband and future president, Bill Clinton, at Yale Law School.

_ After serving as first lady of Arkansas and then of the U.S., elected to Senate from New York.

_ Early Democratic front-runner in 2008, lost presidential nomination to Barack Obama.

_ Both praised and criticized in four years as Obama’s secretary of state.

Also of note:

Clinton has hung onto her front-runner status in the party despite congressional investigations into her use of a private email server as secretary of state and the fatal attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, on her watch. She’s also faced questions about big donations from foreigners accepted by the Clinton family’s charitable foundation.

Might Clinton be for you?

Perhaps yes, if you prefer a Democrat who has a more aggressive foreign policy than Obama.

Perhaps no, if you want a president who comes into office untarnished by congressional probes. 

Some other distinguishing issues:

_ Make public universities affordable and community colleges tuition-free.

_ Tighten gun laws by expanding background checks and allowing lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

_ Opposes an Obama initiative that she once supported: the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

In a nutshell:

Early favorite. Second-timer. Establishment.

BERNIE SANDERS

Key features: He’s an independent senator from Vermont who calls himself a Scandinavian-style democratic socialist.

A quick sketch:

_ Son of a Polish immigrant father; raised in Brooklyn with the accent to prove it.

_ A student civil rights activist at the University of Chicago in the `60s.

_ Unseated the Democratic mayor of Burlington, Vermont, by 10 votes in 1981.

_ Elected to U.S. House in 1990; Congress’ longest-serving independent.

_ Early and vocal opponent of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Also of note:

Sanders is running for the Democratic nomination, but he’s never been a Democrat. He represented an anti-war third party in four unsuccessful races for office in Vermont in the 1970s. He was elected Burlington mayor as an independent. He caucuses with Democrats in the Senate, but he’s called both the Democratic and Republican parties tools of the wealthy.

Might Sanders be for you?

Perhaps yes, if you want a president to tackle income inequality as “the great moral issue of our time.”

Perhaps no, if you want government to get smaller, not bigger.

Some other distinguishing issues:

_ Create a “Medicare for all” single-payer universal health care program.

_ Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

_ Make tuition free at public colleges and universities.

In a nutshell:

Socialist. Populist. Politically independent.

MARTIN O’MALLEY

Key features: He’s a former Maryland governor who champions data-driven leadership — and sings, too.

A quick sketch:

_ Father was a suburban D.C. lawyer; mother’s been a congressional staffer for nearly three decades.

_ Met his wife while they were University of Maryland law students.

_ Elected Baltimore mayor at age 36, he took a statistics-heavy approach to reducing crime.

_ During two terms as governor, ending in January, he signed laws legalizing gay marriage, repealing the death penalty.

_ The longtime frontman of a Celtic rock band, he sometimes sings and plays guitar at campaign events.

Also of note:

One of the achievements O’Malley boasts about — dramatically reducing Baltimore’s high crime rate as mayor — is getting new scrutiny in a time of national Black Lives Matter protests. Critics contend that O’Malley’s zero-tolerance anti-crime policies fostered a culture of harassment and abuse of black citizens that they blame for the death of Freddie Gray while in Baltimore police custody in April.

Might O’Malley be for you?

Perhaps yes, if you want to shield people in the country without legal documents from deportation until immigration law is overhauled.

Perhaps no, if you dislike his history of raising taxes.

Some other distinguishing issues:

_ Increase Social Security benefits for seniors by raising payroll taxes on high earners.

_ Toughen gun laws, including requiring a background check with fingerprints for every gun sale.

_ Tighten banking rules and break up big banks to end potential for bailouts.

In a nutshell:

Policy wonk. Liberal. Young voter strategy.

On the Web…

For details on how to watch the debate, go to CBS News. 

ACLU reviews the Florida record: Jeb Bush is no ‘moderate’

Jeb Bush officially announced his candidacy for president this week, prompting civil rights groups to stress that Bush’s record as Florida’s governor is not that of a moderate.

“History should not be rewritten about his record on civil rights and civil liberties during his two terms as Florida governor,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.

“Some have put forth a narrative portraying Jeb Bush as having governed as a moderate and it may be politically expedient for him to allow that image to thrive. But Floridians who lived through his governorship know that he governed more ideologically and more extremely than moderately — sometimes ignoring public opinion, sometimes ignoring constitutional principles, all in order to pursue a decidedly not moderate policy agenda.”

Simon pointed to five actions by Bush as examples of his style of leadership:

• The “Scarlet Letter” Law: In allowing the infamous “Scarlet Letter” Law to go into effect, Bush ignored Florida’s state constitutional right of privacy and allowed the Legislature to require Florida women placing a child for adoption with a private adoption agency to publish a notice in local newspapers about their sexual history.

The notice was to contain information about the mother’s age, race, hair and eye color, approximate height and weight, any person the mother reasonably believes may be the father and the date and city in which the act of conception might have occurred.

The ACLU challenged the law and argued the case in court. 

The courts struck down the law. 

Bush then signed a repeal of the statute.

• Assigned attorneys for the fetus of a disabled rape victim but not for the victim: When a developmentally disabled woman who was a resident of a state-run group home in Orlando was raped and impregnated by a member of the staff of the facility, Bush sent attorneys from the state Department of Children and Family Services to court to request that the court appoint a guardian for the fetus. 

The tactic was designed to use the court process so that it would be too late to perform an abortion.

The ACLU argued the case against the motion filed by DCF attorneys and the court rejected to the motion for the appointment of a guardian for the fetus.

• State funding of religious schools and a fight to remove constitutional protections against government entanglement with religion: In 2006, the Florida Supreme Court struck down Bush’s signature education reform measure, the “Opportunity Scholarship Program” school voucher program. 

The program, the centerpiece of his 1998 campaign for governor and enacted in his first year in office, used state funds to pay tuition for public school students to attend church-run sectarian schools. 

The ACLU was part of a coalition of public education and civil liberties groups that filed suit challenging the program as a violation of two state constitutional provisions: the prohibition on direct or indirect aid to religious institutions and the requirement that the state fund a uniform system of public education.

Bush ignored both constitutional provisions.

Though the Florida Supreme Court used only the later provision to strike down the voucher program, thereby not needing to rule on a “no aid” violation, Bush nevertheless asked the Legislature to propose a constitutional amendment to strip the “no aid to religious institutions” provision from the state constitution. 

In a dramatic and narrow vote, the Republican-controlled Florida State Senate declined Bush’s request to place a repeal of state constitutional church-state separation on the ballot.

• The Terri Schiavo case: Bush attempted to use the machinery of state government and then, through a special law enacted by Congress and signed by President George Bush, the machinery of the federal government and federal courts to intrude into an intensely private family tragedy.

ACLU attorneys were the legal team which, on behalf of husband Michael Schiavo, successfully challenged both the state law and the federal law that Bush used as the legal basis for his personal intervention. 

Bush’s efforts to intervene in this matter included sending state police to seize Terri Schiavo and transport her to a facility where a feeding tube would be reinserted — in violation of six years of proceedings in the Pinellas County courts that had determined the Terri Schiavo did not wish to be sustained artificially and indefinitely in a vegetative state.

• Defending a Civil War era racist election system: Bush defended Florida’s Civil War era system of lifetime felon disfranchisement under which the right to vote is taken away from more citizens in Florida than in any other state in the country.

In a 2002 federal lawsuit, Johnson v. Bush, the governor and his attorneys defended Florida’s system of lifetime felon disfranchisement against charges of racial discrimination.

The governor ignored historical evidence that, with the extension of the franchise to the freed slaves following the Civil War, the system of lifetime felon disfranchisement was designed by the post-Confederacy 1868 Constitutional Convention to take the vote away from as many of the freed slaves as possible — largely because in some parts of the state freed slaves outnumbered whites. 

Simon said, “From publicly shaming Florida women for their private lives to attempting to smash the protection against government entanglement with religion, to inviting himself — and the world — into a family tragedy, Gov. Bush saw his office as a license to use the power of government to enact his will and his own personal morality on the private lives of Florida citizens.

“He was and remains insensitive to the obligation of government to sometimes ‘stay its hand’ out of respect for the great religious diversity of our country.  His recent speech at Liberty University echoed themes seen during his two terms as Florida governor, when he showed little appreciation for the fact that government policies should not impose the views of one religious tradition on people of a different faith tradition.

“As he prepares to run for higher office, Jeb Bush may want to present himself to the nation’s electorate as a moderate. Those of us who fought for civil rights and civil liberties during his tenure in Florida know better.”

For GOP, which Reagan legacy is right for 2016?

Another prominent Republican gathering, more evidence of the dueling legacies of President Ronald Reagan overhanging the party as it tries to widen its reach and avoid extending its presidential losing streak in 2016.

There’s Reagan the doctrinaire icon of modern conservatism who declared at his inauguration that “government isn’t the solution; government is the problem.” Then there’s Reagan the pragmatic president who negotiated with Democrats and other Republicans on taxes, spending and immigration, among other issues.

Both Reagans made an appearance at a national conservative summit in Louisiana, and the divide is at the core of the GOP’s identity search that pits tea party conservatives like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee — they led a budget fight that sparked a partial government shutdown last fall — against party establishment figures who say compromise is a necessary function of government.

Cruz told Republican Leadership Conference delegates Saturday at the Republican Leadership Conference that Reagan was successful because he was unapologetically conservative.

“Y’all will remember what happened in 1980,” Cruz said. “We saw … millions of Americans across this country rise up and become the Reagan revolution.”

Haley Barbour, the former Republican national chairman who worked in the Reagan White House, delivered a history lecture on the same stage as Cruz a day before. “Reagan compromised on everything,” he said, adding that “purity is the enemy of victory” in politics and in governing.

Barbour cited overhauls of Social Security, taxes and immigration that Reagan signed after deals with a Democratic Congress. He didn’t say it, but the Social Security deal raised payroll taxes on some workers. The immigration law included provisions many Republicans now deride as “amnesty.” Other Reagan tax bills included various cuts and increases.

After leaving office, Reagan also urged Congress to adopt the Brady Bill, which eventually passed to require a waiting period for certain gun purchases and a ban on certain military-style rifles. The law was named for a Reagan aide shot in a 1981 assassination attempt on the new president.

Cruz said Saturday: “In Texas, we define gun control real simple. That’s hittin’ what you aim at.”

The senator won the presidential straw poll at the three-day conference, an annual gathering where some White House hopefuls make their pitch to some of the party’s most conservative activists. Delegates said they’re intent on reclaiming the White House and recognize the necessity of reaching behind the party’s most conservative core, but there’s little consensus on how to do it.

Cruz told The Associated Press after his speech that Reagan “unequivocally” would have aligned with him last year when he pushed Republicans to block budget bills in an effort to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. He conceded that Reagan signed eight deficit-spending budgets he negotiated with liberals like House Speaker Tip O’Neill of Massachusetts.

But those deals, Cruz argued, still “slowed the rate of growth.”

“The difference was he was at least fighting for it,” Cruz said. “Too many Republicans start with surrender and then are surprised when they don’t get anything.”

GOP ponders long list of names for 2016

Republicans’ search for a way back to presidential success is drawing a striking array of personalities and policy options, creating a wide-open self-reassessment of the party. GOP activists may need three full years to decide which candidate and which philosophy will serve them best in 2016.

Rival factions are trying to tug the party left or right, toward pragmatism or defiance, toward small-government purity versus pride in the good that government can do.

Traditional stands against same-sex marriage and against looser immigration laws are being challenged. And the tea party’s influence – a mixed blessing in recent U.S. Senate races – looms large in early presidential jockeying after a muted role in the heart of last year’s contest.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is generating nationwide attention with a libertarian-tinged message that drew modest attention until a short time ago.

Marco Rubio, a tea party hero since elbowing his way past Florida’s Republican governor in the 2010 Senate race, is practically a GOP mainstreamer now. Republicans don’t need a new idea, he told a recent gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference, because they already have one. “The idea is called America, and it still works,” Rubio said.

At the same conference, Paul espoused a different view. The Republican Party, he said, is “stale and moss-covered.”

It’s Paul – not Rubio or one of the several governors eyeing a presidential bid – who got the coveted invitation to headline the Iowa Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner in May.

It’s possible, of course, that one Republican candidate will pull away from the pack over the next two years. But the absence of an early frontrunner is unusual for a party that traditionally picks its nominee with a next-in-line mindset, said Dan Schnur, a former Republican campaign aide who teaches political science at the University of Southern California. Now, he said, “there is no hierarchy.”

Thus far, no one is creating more buzz than Rand Paul, whose father, Ron Paul, is a libertarian champion and three-time presidential candidate. The younger Paul generally avoids his father’s more esoteric issues, such as abolishing the Federal Reserve and returning to the gold standard.

Rand Paul’s anti-war stand also is softer than his father’s. But the junior senator from Kentucky gained widespread attention this month with a 13-hour filibuster challenging U.S. policy for using drones to kill terrorist suspects.

Soon thereafter, Paul won CPAC’s presidential straw poll – as his father did in past years – and delivered a widely covered speech on immigration.

“Rand Paul is going to be a very serious candidate for president,” said Steve Schmidt, a chief strategist for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “He’s going to challenge the orthodoxies, some of the litmus tests, of what has defined conservatism. The libertarian wing, which has been dormant, will assert itself.”

Even Paul’s occasional critics salute his fast rise.

“He’s passionate, he knows no fear and he’s true to his beliefs,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who publicly rebuked Paul’s remarks about drone policies.

“We’re on different planets when it comes to foreign policy,” Graham said. He cautioned Paul: “I think it’s going to be difficult to lead the Republican Party without embracing peace through strength, the Ronald Reagan approach to national security.”

The higher Paul soars, the more scrutiny his record will draw. That record might unsettle Republicans who say the party must edge toward the center to attract more voters.

Paul strongly opposes abortion rights, saying human life begins at conception and should be entitled to legal protection from then on. He muddied the waters in a recent CNN interview, however, saying, “There are thousands of exceptions” that might make an abortion legal.

Paul also has struggled to explain changes to his once-firm stand against illegal immigration. In a major speech this month he set out a plan to let illegal immigrants remain in the U.S. and ultimately get a chance to become citizens, but he generally avoided direct references to citizenship.

Nearly equaling Paul in early presidential speculation is Rubio, 41, who is tasked with helping his party find better footing on immigration. Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, is trying to craft a lengthy but feasible path to citizenship for the nation’s millions of illegal immigrants. Rubio and Paul may end up with similar positions, although Paul wants more stringent requirements for certifying that the Mexican border is secure before moving ahead with other immigration changes.

Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Some GOP strategists hope Rubio can reverse the trend.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has called for immigration reform and whose wife is Mexican-American, also is in the presidential mix. It’s not clear whether he and Rubio can advance simultaneously. Also, Bush’s father and brother left the White House with low approval ratings.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the 2012 vice presidential nominee, is considering a presidential campaign that inevitably would draw scrutiny to his efforts to slash social spending without raising taxes on anyone, including the rich.

Warren G. Harding was the last Republican elected directly from the Senate or House to the presidency. As usual, several governors are weighing presidential bids. At least three – Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bob McDonnell of Virginia – might make a pragmatic, can-do argument, having governed toss-up or Democratic-leaning states.

But they already see the challenge of running in a party whose primaries are dominated by conservative activists.

Christie, who praised Obama’s role in hurricane relief, was refused a speaking slot at CPAC. And conservative bloggers are hammering McDonnell for a Virginia transportation overhaul that includes new taxes.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal – a former Rhodes Scholar who urges Republicans to stop being “the stupid party” and obsessing over budgets – also might run for president.

Personalities aside, Republicans are bracing for an intense philosophical debate. Should they edge toward the political center to draw moderates and independents who helped elect Obama? And if so, how do they avoid antagonizing evangelicals, immigration hard-liners and other conservative stalwarts who comprise the party’s base?

Schmidt notes that the base’s loyalty didn’t keep the party from losing the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.

If Republicans recalibrate their message “based on talk radio hosts and extreme bloggers, it’s like putting a magnet to your compass,” Schmidt said. “The readings go haywire,” and there’s no way to pick up the extra voters the party needs, he said.

Schnur, the consultant-turned-academic, said Republicans realize they can’t win presidential races without changing. “A much harder decision is not whether to do things differently,” he said, “but how.”

Republican Party seems as divided, angry as ever

The Republican Party seems as divided and angry as ever.

Infighting has penetrated the highest levels of the House GOP leadership. Long-standing geographic tensions have increased, pitting endangered Northeastern Republicans against their colleagues from other parts of the country. Enraged tea party leaders are threatening to knock off dozens of Republicans who supported a measure that raised taxes on the nation’s highest earners.

“People are mad as hell. I’m right there with them,” Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, said late last week, declaring that she has “no confidence” in the party her members typically support. Her remarks came after GOP lawmakers agreed to higher taxes but no broad spending cuts as part of a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff.”

“Anybody that voted ‘yes’ in the House should be concerned” about primary challenges in 2014, she said.

At the same time, one of the GOP’s most popular voices, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, blasted his party’s “toxic internal politics” after House Republicans initially declined to approve disaster relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy. He said it was “disgusting to watch” their actions and he faulted the GOP’s most powerful elected official, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The GOP’s internal struggles to figure out what it wants to be were painfully exposed after Mitt Romney’s loss to President Barack Obama on Nov. 6, but they have exploded in recent days. The fallout could extend well beyond the party’s ability to win policy battles on Capitol Hill. It could hamper Republicans as they examine how to regroup and attract new voters after a disheartening election season.

To a greater degree than the Democrats, the Republican Party has struggled with internal divisions for the past few years. But these latest clashes have seemed especially public and vicious.

“It’s disappointing to see infighting in the party,” said Ryan Williams, a Republican operative and former Romney aide. “It doesn’t make us look like we’re in a position to challenge the president and hold him accountable to the promises he made.”

What’s largely causing the dissension? A lack of a clear GOP leader with a single vision for the party.

Republicans haven’t had a consistent standard-bearer since President George W. Bush left office in 2008 with the nation on the edge of a financial collapse. His departure, along with widespread economic concerns, gave rise to a tea party movement that infused the GOP’s conservative base with energy. The tea party is credited with broad Republican gains in the 2010 congressional elections, but it’s also blamed for the rising tension between the pragmatic and ideological wings of the party – discord that festers still.

It was much the same for Democrats in the late 1980s before Bill Clinton emerged to win the White House and shift his party to the political center.

2012 presidential nominee Romney never fully captured the hearts of his party’s most passionate voters. But his tenure atop the party was short-lived; since Election Day, he’s disappeared from the political world.

Those Republican leaders who remain engaged – Christie, Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus – are showing little sign of coming together.

Those on the GOP’s deep bench of potential 2016 presidential contenders, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have begun staking out their own, sometimes conflicting ideas for the party.

Over the short term at least, the party’s divisions probably will continue to be exposed.

Obama has outlined a second-term agenda focused on immigration and gun control; those are issues that would test Republican solidarity even in good times. Deep splits already exist between Republican pragmatists and the conservative base, who oppose any restrictions on guns or allowances for illegal immigrants.

It’s unclear whether Obama can exploit the GOP fissures or whether the Republican dysfunction will hamper him. With Boehner unable to control his fractured caucus, the White House is left wondering how to deal with the House on any divisive issue.

Fiscal issues aren’t going away, with lawmakers were agree on a broad deficit-reduction package. The federal government reached its borrowing limit last week, so Congress has about two months or three months to raise the debt ceiling or risk a default on federal debt. Massive defense and domestic spending cuts are set to take effect in late February. By late March, the current spending plan will end, raising the possibility of a government shutdown.

Frustrated conservative activists and GOP insiders hope that the continued focus on fiscal matters will help unite the factions as the party pushes for deep spending cuts. That fight also may highlight Democratic divisions because the party’s liberal wing vehemently opposes any changes to Social Security or Medicare

“Whenever you lose the White House, the party’s going to have ups and downs,” said Republican strategist Ron Kaufman. “My guess is when the spending issues come up again, the Democrats’ warts will start to show as well.”

The GOP’s fissures go beyond positions on issues. They also are geographical.

Once a strong voice in the party, moderate Republicans across the Northeast are nearly extinct. Many of those who remain were frustrated in recent days when Boehner temporarily blocked a vote on a disaster relief bill.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said campaign donors in the Northeast who give the GOP after the slight “should have their head examined.”

Boehner, who just won a second term as speaker, quickly scheduled a vote on a narrower measure for Friday after the new Congress convened, and it rushed out a $9.7 billion measure to help pay flood insurance claims.

Weary Republican strategists are trying to be hopeful about the GOP’s path ahead, and liken the current situation to party’s struggles after Obama’s 2008 election. At the time, some pundits questioned the viability of the Republican Party. But it came roaring back two years later, thanks largely to the tea party.

“If we have learned anything from the fiscal cliff fiasco, conservatives discovered we need to stand firm, and stand together, on our principles from beginning to end,” said Republican strategist Alice Stewart. “It’s frustrating to see the GOP drop the ball and turn a position of true compromise into total surrender. The Democrats succeeded in their strategy of divide and conquer.”

Florida’s Crist may run again; GOP says ‘bring it on’

Now that former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is a Democrat, pretty much everyone in Florida’s political world expects him to seek his old job.

“I will consider it, and I will think about it,” Crist told The Associated Press by phone while boating off of Miami and before a planned dinner with former Democratic governor and Sen. Bob Graham.

The former Republican governor revealed his long-anticipated conversion on Dec. 7, after more than two years as an independent. He made the announcement on Twitter and included a photo of his new voter registration form, which he filled out at the White House.

Earlier Dec. 8, Florida Republicans gathered for a meeting and said they will be extra motivated to re-elect Gov. Rick Scott if his opponent is Crist, who left the GOP during his 2010 run for Senate.

“Bring it on,” Peter Feaman, the party’s national committeeman, told a room of Republican activists. “That man sat at my house, in my kitchen, at my breakfast table and told me he was a Ronald Reagan Republican. OK, I’m putting my boots on, because guess what? You lied to me.”

Should the 56-year-old Crist run, he could become the first person to run for Florida governor as a Republican and as a Democrat. Crist only served one term before choosing to run for U.S. Senate instead of re-election.

Republicans, anticipating the switch, have been attacking him for months. As Crist campaigned with President Barack Obama and other Democrats during the fall, Republicans ran a television ad and issued scores of press releases pointing out his previous conservative positions, including opposition to gay marriage and adoptions by gay parents.

“I really feel at home. A lot of it was inspired by what Democrats have stood for, and honestly, friends have told me most of my political life, ‘Charlie, you’re really a Democrat and you just don’t know it,” Crist said.

Aside from his positions on gay issues, Crist was considered a moderate governor and met often with Democratic leaders. At dinners in the governor’s mansion, he includes both Republicans and Democrats at his head table. He endeared himself to the teachers union by vetoing a Republican priority bill that would have stripped teachers of tenure and based merit raises on test scores. He also won over many black leaders by championing certain civil rights issues, prompting one black lawmaker to describe him as the first black governor.

Since leaving the GOP, Crist, who called himself “the people’s governor” while in office, has criticized the party for going too far to the right. Crist has already criticized Scott for refusing to extend early voting despite pleas from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and other Democrats.

“The leadership of the party lately has gone off the cliff, I wasn’t comfortable enough,” Crist said. “What I love most about our state is our people … I just have a feeling in my heart right now that leadership doesn’t appreciate that fact.”

Crist was elected governor in 2006 as a Republican, succeeding two-term Republican Gov. Jeb Bush. A popular governor and considered one of the best campaigners in the state, Crist used his charisma and feel-good messages to win over voters.

But many conservatives became disenchanted with Crist after he hugged President Barack Obama at a rally to push for the $787 billion stimulus package, which passed in 2009 with virtually no Republican support.

Although Crist was the early favorite for a U.S. Senate seat in 2010, conservatives began to rally around the bid of Marco Rubio in the 2010 GOP primary, prompting Crist’s independent bid.

If he runs for his old job, Crist will have better name recognition than any other Democrat seeking the governor’s seat, including former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who lost a hard-fought campaign to Scott.

Scott’s approval ratings haven’t come close to what Crist had in office. Scott, a former hospital chain CEO and tea party favorite who never ran for office before spending nearly $80 million of his and his family’s money to win election, isn’t considered a natural politician. He can be an awkward speaker, and it has taken a while for him to grow comfortable in the spotlight.

But that doesn’t mean Crist would have an easy time winning. During primary elections, only about 20 percent of voters turn out, and they are the most faithful in the party. Activists on both sides will remember the many elections in which they fought Crist, who often called himself a Ronald Reagan and Jeb Bush Republican.

“We’re going to be ready to play ball,” said Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry, noting that Crist previously praised former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, criticized Obama and held conservative views on abortion.

And it’s not easy switching parties after reaching political success. After nearly three decades as a Republican U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic party rather than face a potentially uphill primary battle against a conservative challenger in 2010. Obama and Senate Democrats welcomed him, but Specter lost in that year’s Democratic primary to Rep. Joe Sestak, who went on to lose in the fall to Republican Pat Toomey. Then there’s former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who won office as a Democrat and then lost his 1992 re-election bid as a Republican.

“The strong Democrats are the ones that vote in the non-presidential year, and they’re the ones that are most likely to have a problem with Crist,” said Democratic pollster David Beattie.

Beattie, however, said Crist has been smart about the transition because he got people used to the idea of him being a Democrat. After losing his independent bid for Senate, he began doing public events with Democrats. His wife, Carole, switched from Republican to Democrat. Then he began backing Democratic candidates in Florida, then Obama. And he spoke at last summer’s Democratic National Convention.

“There are a lot of people who say, ‘Oh, I thought he did that a long time ago,”” Beattie said. “I don’t think he’s stopped campaigning over the last two years.”

Romney’s loss creates GOP leadership vacuum

Mitt Romney’s shadow looms over a Republican Party in disarray.

The face of the Republican Party for much of the last year, the failed presidential candidate has been a virtual ghost since his defeat Nov. 6. He has quietly weathered the fallout of the campaign from the seclusion of his Southern California home, emerging only momentarily for a private lunch at the White House with President Barack Obama.

His loss and immediate withdrawal from politics, while welcomed by most, has created a leadership vacuum within his party. It’s left the Republicans rudderless, lacking an overarching agenda and mired in infighting, with competing visions for the way ahead, during what may be the most important policy debate in a generation.

In his final meeting with campaign staffers at his Boston headquarters, Romney promised to remain “a strong voice for the party,” according to those in attendance. But so far he has offered little to the Capitol Hill negotiations over potential tax increases and entitlement program changes that could affect virtually every American.

He declined to comment on the Treasury Department’s recent refusal to declare China a currency manipulator, which was one of his signature issues over the past 18 months. He made no public remarks after his meeting with Obama, quickly fading away, again.

“If I had to tell you somebody who is the leader of the party right now, I couldn’t,” said Amy Kremer, chairman of the Tea Party Express, which is among the conservative factions vying for increased influence. “There’s a void right now.”

There’s no shortage of Republicans maneuvering to fill it, from House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio to a number of high-profile politicians looking to boost their national profiles, if not position themselves for a 2016 presidential run. That group could include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, son and brother of presidents, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Republican officials acknowledge party tensions between the moderate and conservative wings, as well as the tea party, which advocates limited government and low taxes and evangelical constituencies concerned about social issues. But they dismiss the leadership vacuum as a standard political reality for the losing party in the presidential race. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, never had a strong relationship with the conservative base, given his more moderate past.

Party officials are optimistic that a team of younger and more diverse leaders, drawn from the ranks of governors and Congress, will emerge in the coming months to help strengthen and unify what is now a party grappling with its identity. That list includes Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American, and Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Nikki Haley of South Carolina, whose families emigrated from India.

The Republican Party was in disarray following its 2006 showing, searching for a new path and leader at a time when President George W. Bush was deeply unpopular.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 presidential nominee, briefly assumed control of a party that he long had criticized, but it never really warmed to him. He lost to Obama, and shortly after that, the party turned to an African-American official, Michael Steele, to serve as its chief spokesman. But the decision was widely seen as a mistake, as Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor, presided over major financial problems as head of the Republican National Committee.

All that created a leadership vacuum that helped give rise to the tea party movement in 2009 and sparked rounds of internal battles between party pragmatists and more extreme conservatives.

Republican strategist Phil Musser is among those suggesting that the current void presents a breakout opportunity for the party chairman, Reince Priebus. The 40-year-old Midwesterner largely played a supporting administrative role in his first two years on the job.

“To some degree it’s a challenge in as much you don’t have a standard bearer to rally behind that unifies central themes of the conservative movement,” Musser said. “The bottom line is that a little bit of messiness and frank family discussion is not a terrible thing after an election like this.”

But Democrats are emboldened, both by their Election Day successes and the subsequent Republican discord.

Republican factions are fighting over multiple issues: the “fiscal cliff,” which will dominate the debate on Capitol Hill at least through the end of the year as politicians try to avoid the steep spending cuts and tax hikes scheduled to automatically take effect on Jan. 1; blame for Romney’s defeat; and how to appeal to a shifting and more diverse electorate and unify its message.

The party’s most passionate voters are reluctant to abandon hard-line immigration policies that have dominated their thinking for years. But Washington-based strategists describe a dire need to win over more Hispanic voters and other minorities who overwhelmingly supported Obama in the swing states that decided the election.

At the same time, rank-and-file Republicans in Congress are struggling to coalesce behind a single message during fiscal cliff negotiations that have exposed a new rift with fiscal conservative guru Grover Norquist and his anti-tax pledge that most Republican lawmakers have signed.

There’s also evidence that the fight isn’t over between the conservative and pragmatic wings of the party in Senate primaries.

Conservatives wasted little time signaling that they would work to defeat Shelley Moore Capito, a popular congresswoman from a storied West Virginia political family, as she seeks the nomination for the chance to challenge Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller in 2014. Within an hour of Capito’s announcing her candidacy, the deep-pocketed conservative Club for Growth branded her as the “establishment candidate” whose record in Congress of supporting prominent bailouts has led to bigger government.

Democrats already are working to exploit the Republican divisions to strengthen their own political standing.

Obama has taken his party’s message directly to voters. He visited a Pennsylvania toy manufacturer on Friday, calling for Republicans to embrace the immediate extension of tax cuts for all but the top 2 percent of wealthiest Americans.

Though Boehner has taken the lead in negotiations with the White House, Republicans generally did not have a standard-bearer to counter that message. Instead, they’re relying on familiar Capitol Hill leaders to guide party doctrine during his debate.

“We don’t have one person out there carrying that torch. You’ll have (South Carolina Sen.) Lindsey Graham, Speaker Boehner, (Wisconsin Rep.) Paul Ryan, John McCain – same old, same old,” said Republican strategist Hogan Gidley, a senior official on former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s unsuccessful presidential bid. “Void of a singular leader, we’re going to have to rely on some of the younger more dynamic speakers to go out and make our argument.”

No one, it seems, is talking about Romney assuming any sort of leadership role.

“I don’t think that we need to be looking toward Mitt Romney to articulate our principles,” said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots.

It appears Romney may cooperate, choosing business over politics in defeat.

The former businessman is subletting office space at the Boston-area venture capital firm, Solamere Capital, which was founded by his oldest son. Former aides expect Romney to stay out of the spotlight for the foreseeable future _–spending colder months at his California home and warmer months at his New Hampshire lake house.

“It might be better for him, better for the party, to start fresh,” Gidley said.

Moderate U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter remembered

Arlen Specter, a pugnacious and prominent former moderate in the U.S. Senate who developed the single-bullet theory in President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and played starring roles in Supreme Court confirmation hearings, lost a battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at a time when Congress is more politically polarized than anyone serving there – or living in America – can remember.

Specter, 82, died Sunday, after spending much of his career in the U.S. Senate warning of the dangers of political intolerance.

Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, responded, “On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, I extend our condolences to the family of Arlen Specter. His support for repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and passage of the Matthew Shepard hate crimes law was critical. As was his willingness to change his mind and oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 after voting for it in 2004.

“While we disagreed with his support for some conservative judicial nominees which will leave a lasting negative impact on our community, he was willing to work across party lines to get things done.

“I had the opportunity to host him in Los Angeles while working with him on funding for stem cell research at a time when it was difficult for a Republican Senator to speak out.”

For most of his 30 years as Pennsylvania’s longest-serving U.S. senator, Specter was a Republican, though often at odds with the GOP leadership. His breaks with his party were hardly a surprise: He had begun his political career as a Democrat and ended it as one, too.

In between, he was at the heart of several major American political events. He drew the lasting ire of conservatives by helping end the U.S. Supreme Court hopes of former federal appeals Judge Robert H. Bork and the anger of women over his aggressive questioning of Anita Hill, a law professor who had accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. He even mounted a short-lived run for president in 1995 on a platform that warned his fellow Republicans of the “intolerant right.”

Specter never had his name on a piece of landmark legislation. But he involved himself deeply in the affairs that mattered most to him, whether trying to advance Middle East peace talks or federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. He provided key votes for President Barack Obama’s signature accomplishments, the health care and economic stimulus bills.

Specter died at his home in Philadelphia from complications of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, said his son Shanin. Over the years, Specter had fought two previous bouts with Hodgkin lymphoma, overcome a brain tumor and survived cardiac arrest following bypass surgery.

“For over three decades, I watched his political courage accomplish great feats and was awed by his physical courage to never give up. Arlen never walked away from his principles and was at his best when they were challenged,” said Vice President Joe Biden, with whom Specter often rode the train home from Washington, D.C., when Biden also served in the Senate.

Said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, “Arlen wanted to die in the Senate, and in many ways he should have.”

Intellectual and stubborn, “snarlin’ Arlen” took the lead on a wide spectrum of issues and was no stranger to controversy.

He rose to prominence in the 1960s as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia prosecuting Teamsters officials for conspiracy to misuse union dues and as counsel to the Warren Commission, where he developed the “single-bullet fact” in Kennedy’s assassination, as he called it.

He came to the Senate in the Reagan landslide of 1980 and, as one of the Senate’s sharpest legal minds, took part in 14 Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Specter lost his job amid the very polarization that he had repeatedly attacked: He crossed political party lines to make the toughest vote he had ever cast in his career when, in 2009, he became one of three Republicans to vote for President Obama’s economic stimulus bill.

Specter, who grew up in Depression-era Kansas as the child of Jewish immigrants, justified his vote as the only way to keep America from sliding into another depression.

But Republican fury over his vote appeared immovable and in one of his last major political acts, Specter startled fellow senators in April 2009 when he announced he was joining the Democrats at the urging of good friends Biden and Rendell, both Democrats.

Still, many Democratic primary voters had never voted for Specter, and they weren’t about to start. Instead, they picked his primary opponent, then-U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, despite Specter’s endorsement from Obama, Rendell and Biden.

Born in Wichita, Kan., on Feb. 12, 1930, Specter spent summers toiling in his father’s junkyard in Russell, Kan., where he knew another future senator – Bob Dole. The junkyard thrived during World War II, allowing Specter’s father to send his four children to college.

Specter left Kansas for college, graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951 and Yale law school in 1956. He served in the Air Force from 1951 to 1953. After working on the Warren Commission, he returned to Philadelphia and wanted to run for district attorney in 1965. But he found that he would have to challenge not only his boss, but the city’s entrenched Democratic Party. Specter ran as a Republican and won.

Friends say his childhood circumstances made him determined, tough and independent-minded. In his 2000 book, “Passion for Truth,” he noted how his father had complained bitterly that the U.S. government had broken its promise to pay a bonus to World War I veterans.

“Figuratively, “he wrote, “I have been on my way to Washington ever since to get my father’s bonus.”

For Specter, the benefit of crossing party lines wasn’t always about being true to his convictions. He also used it to benefit the causes he championed.

“He was a master politician,” Rendell said. “He was as smart as a whip.”

In 2001, he voted for President George W. Bush’s package of tax cuts, but voted with Democrats to route $450 billion into education and debt reduction. He negotiated $10 billion for medical research when he agreed to vote for the stimulus.

But Specter also believed in the political middle, and often lamented the disappearance of moderates who had the courage to buck party leadership.

In one study of congressional polarization, University of Georgia professor of political science Keith Poole mapped the political polarization of Congress by charting votes and found that the parties are more divided than at any time since Reconstruction after drifting further apart in the last 40 years.

Poole said in an essay that there are no true moderates left in the House of Representatives, and just a handful remaining in the Senate, in contrast to the Reagan era when about half of the members of Congress could be described as moderates.

The other two Republicans who supported Obama’s stimulus are Maine’s two U.S. senators. One of them, Olympia Snowe, announced in February that she wasn’t seeking re-election. She said she was frustrated by “‘my way or the highway’ ideologies.”

Specter’s funeral was scheduled for Tuesday in Penn Valley, Pa., and will be open to the public, followed by burial in Huntingdon Valley, Pa.

Besides his son, Shanin, Specter is survived by his wife, Joan, son, Steve, and four granddaughters.

Remembering the man…

“He was a mentor, colleague and a political institution, and on a personal level, he was my first boss. Sen. Specter did more for the people of Pennsylvania over his more than 30 year career with the possible exception of Benjamin Franklin. He was a champion for veterans across our state and beyond, and will be deeply missed.” — Former Gov. Ed Rendell, who served as an assistant prosecutor when Specter was Philadelphia’s district attorney.

“Arlen Specter was always a fighter. From his days stamping out corruption as a prosecutor in Philadelphia to his three decades of service in the Senate, Arlen was fiercely independent — never putting party or ideology ahead of the people he was chosen to serve. He brought that same toughness and determination to his personal struggles, using his own story to inspire others.” — President Barack Obama.

“Arlen Specter was a great senator who lived his life the way he died, with dignity and courage. He was my friend and I admired him a great deal. For over three decades, I watched his political courage accomplish great feats and was awed by his physical courage to never give up. Arlen never walked away from his principles and was at his best when they were challenged.” — Vice President Joe Biden.

“Arlen Specter loved our country and served it with integrity for three decades in the United States Senate. Laura and I appreciate his contributions to America and are grateful for his many years of public service.” — Former President George W. Bush.

“He generated a lot of support and a lot of dissent, but he was unafraid to be held accountable. … At the end of the day, he was one relentless, unapologetic fighter. Republicans and Democrats may not like how he voted, but they certainly had to respect his mindset.” — Former Gov. Tom Ridge.

“Serving with Senator Specter for more than a decade, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that he was a fighter, and his commitment to public service was admirable.” — Former Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.

“Sen. Arlen Specter was a true Pennsylvania institution whose record of fighting for our Commonwealth is unmatched. Senator Specter’s contributions to Pennsylvania and the United States will leave a lasting legacy.” — Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn.

“A man of sharp intelligence and dogged determination, Sen. Specter dedicated his life to public service and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. His impact on our state and public policy will not be forgotten.” — U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who succeeded Specter.

“Arlen was a statesman and a problem solver who was able to work with Democrats and Republicans in the best interest of our Commonwealth and our Country. Arlen fought cancer courageously and his enduring legacy of support for the National Institutes of Health will help countless Americans as they battle cancer and other ailments.” — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.

“Today, Saundy and I join Pennsylvanians in mourning the loss of a dedicated public servant. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sen. Specter’s family and friends at this difficult time.” — Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Tom Smith, who is challenging Casey.

“Over Arlen’s remarkable career spanning three decades in the Senate, time and again he reached across the aisle to build consensus on vital legislation to advance his beloved Pennsylvania and the nation. … Arlen was driven by a common-sense pragmatism that advocated for a revitalization and advancement of the political center.” — U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

“Sen. Specter was a man of moderation; he was always passionate, but always easy to work with. I followed him through his previous illnesses, during the course of which he displayed great physical strength and great strength of character. Throughout his life, Sen. Specter fought and won many battles, but this was one he could not win. America is better today because of Arlen Specter.” — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

“A legendary figure in his beloved Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter brought his fierce intellect and a prosecutor’s drive to countless battles in the Senate. He was a fighter to the end.” — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“Arlen Specter was a dedicated public servant and tireless advocate for Pennsylvania. He was always willing to work with every member of the Pennsylvania delegation to address the needs of the communities we serve and the people we are privileged to represent.” — U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa.

“For thirty years, he served the people of Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate well, often working across the aisle to get things done. He was a moderate who put the needs of his constituents and country before politics — something seen all too rarely now.” — U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.