Specter talks about energy, health care at Chambersburg town meeting

August 26, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Questions about the energy crisis and health care came up several times Monday during an open house town meeting hosted by U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter.

"I'm finished chemotherapy and I'm doing fine, except for my hair. I don't have any," Specter, R-Pa., told an audience of about 100 constituents at Chambersburg Area Middle School. Despite the recurrence of cancer, the 78-year-old Specter said he is looking forward to running for another six-year term in 2010.

Specter, a 28-year veteran of the Senate, said he hopes that by then the GOP will have regained the majority, allowing him the chance to serve as chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, a job now held by 90-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.

Congress recessed without a vote on expanding domestic oil exploration, but Specter said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was asked about it on "Meet the Press" Sunday "and she's changed her tune a little."


While Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid may allow a vote on drilling, Specter said it will likely be part of a broader, complicated package of legislation.

Specter recalled a visit he made to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with fellow senator and presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain. The Pennsylvania Senator said he believed directional drilling and other new technologies would make it environmentally safe to explore that potential source of domestic crude.

Specter would also make members of OPEC subject to U.S. antitrust laws. The production levels set by oil exporters, he said, feeds the economies of nations that are unfriendly to American interests, such as Russia and Venezuela.

More domestic oil will not make the United States energy independent, Specter said. That will require developing alternative sources, including solar, wind and nuclear energy, he said.

The senator took several questions on health care topics, saying he would support legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on the price of prescription medications.

Specter also said he would favor a universal health care system along the model of that adopted by Massachusetts, which requires all residents to purchase health insurance, including from private insurers subsidized by the state. A bill for a similar plan has bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate, he said.

Specter shared his thoughts about the selection of Senate colleague Joe Biden, D-Del., as the vice presidential running mate of Barack Obama.

"I think Sen. Biden is a very talented guy. Very well-qualified," Specter said. "I think when it comes to the presidential election, though, it's Sen. McCain versus Sen. Obama. While the vice presidential nomination is important, it is decidedly secondary."

Specter was not offering any advice on whom McCain should pick.

"With respect to a running mate for Sen. McCain, he's a highly independent fellow and he'll make up his own mind."

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