Here's my story from the main site on Arlen Specter's farewell. The attendance from his fellow senators was particularly impressive, even for a farewell speech, though it was helped by the fact that the Senate had just finished a vote. More than a third of the total Senate was in the room at least part of the time, including several Republicans -- notably Olympia Snowe, Orrin Hatch, Lisa Murkowski and Jeff Sessions -- and Democrats including everyone from old dogs Chris Dodd and Tom Harkin to newcomers Joe Manchin and Chris Coons. Tomorrow's Post-Gazette will have more, including a post-speech chat with the senator.
WASHINGTON -- For the former prosecutor, it wasn't so much a farewell speech as a "closing argument" as Sen. Arlen Specter bid the Senate adieu Tuesday morning after 30 years of service.
Mr. Specter, Pennsylvania's longest serving senator, used the 2,600-word speech, read from a series of notecards, to condemn the partisan rancor that has polarized and gridlocked the Senate.
Mr. Specter was one of a dwindling number of moderate Republicans before he was chased from his party for backing President Barack Obama's stimulus package in early 2009. He noted in the speech the primary defeats of Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, and of Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., who recovered to win general election contests.
He neglected to mention his own defeat to Rep. Joe Sestak in this year's Democratic primary. Pat Toomey, a conservative Republican who helped run Mr. Specter out of the party, will take over the seat next month.
"Eating or defeating your own is a form of sophisticated cannibalism," Mr. Specter said.
He argued for reform of Senate procedures, forcing senators to actually speak when they filibuster -- rather than merely threaten it to stop a bill in its tracks until it can cross the 60-vote threshold. Mr. Specter also reprised an idea he pitched in previous years to remove the 60-vote barrier for executive or judicial nominations.
"Important positions are left open for months, including judicial nominees with emergency backlogs," he said.
Mr. Specter weaved in anecdotes and accomplishments from his Senate career, from peace-brokering visits to Syria to funding fights for the National Institutes of Health.
But most of all he wanted to communicate to his colleagues -- dozens of whom, including several Republicans, sat in rapt attendance -- the shortcomings of the Senate and his prescriptions for improvement.
Mr. Specter closed with optimism that his pleas for civility and bipartisanship would be realized. The vision stemmed in part from Ms. Murkowski's successful write-in bid for re-election.
"By bouncing back and winning, Senator Murkowski demonstrated that a moderate/centrist can win by informing and arousing the general electorate," Mr. Specter said. "Her victory proves that America still wants to be and can be governed by the center."