Reviled by the right, mistrusted by the left and ever unpredictable, was nonetheless a major force in the U.S. Senate for three decades, casting what were often crucial votes on everything from judicial nominations to economic policy.
As a member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, it was in 1987 that Specter helped to defeat confirmation of President Ronald Reagan’s Supreme Court nomination, Robert Bork. Four years later, his aggressive questioning of Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment during Clarence Thomas’ nomination hearing, helped him ascend to the nation’s highest court.
In February 2009, he voted for the Democrats’ economic stimulus package, inflaming GOP sentiment against him.
Specter announced on April 28, 2009 that he was changing party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. The party switch, which Vice President Biden helped to engineer behind the scenes, temporarily gave Democrats the 60th vote they needed to overcome Republican filibusters against President Obama's health care overhaul.
Later in 2009, Specter got a dose of the growing Tea Party rebellion when he appeared at a town hall meeting in Philadelphia alongside Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The raucous scene that followed, aired on newscasts and posted on YouTube, would shake Democrats, embolden Republicans and force the White House to accelerate its health care strategy. It nearly succeeded in upending Obama's initiative. It was this same meeting where a young woman blasted the senator telling him, "You have awakened a sleeping giant."
Pennsylvanians helped Joe Sestak to defeat Specter in that state’s Democratic Party primary on May 18, 2010.
The former senator announced on August 28, 2012 that he was battling cancer again proclaiming it was “another battle I intend to win.”
Rest in peace you grumpy, old warhorse.