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Specter discusses key issues at Chambersburg town meeting

August 30, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., came to south-central Pennsylvania last week, holding a town meeting in Chambersburg, announcing a $100,000 grant for the Fulton County Medical Center and attending a breakfast with local Republicans.

At Tuesday's town meeting, Specter, 78, said he recently completed chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease and plans to run for a sixth term in 2010.

The following are some of Specter's remarks and answers to questions posed by constituents.

His future

"I will soon be the senior Republican on Appropriations, and the pendulum of party power shifts back every six years or so. If I'm re-elected to another term in 2010, and I'm setting the stage now for that campaign, I'll be chairman, and Pennsylvania's never had a chairman.

"Sen. (Robert C.) Byrd of West Virginia is chairman and he's paved half of West Virginia. I don't want to pave half of Pennsylvania, but I would like to reset the priorities ... We need a lot more focus on items like highways and bridges and rail transit and our infrastructure.

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"... One of the consequences of my independence and straying from the party line and working with Democrats where I think the public interest requires it is I've had some tough primary fights. Last time, I won by 1 percentage point, 50.6 (percent) to 49.4 (percent)."

The economy and Congress

"The big issue right today is the economy. What's happening to the price of oil. What's happening to gasoline prices. I wrote to the president urging him to call the Congress back into session. It seems to me we ought to be here working on these issues.

"Congress is really gridlocked today, a lot of partisanship ... which is not good for the country. If most people can't afford the gas to take a vacation then it would do the Congress some good and the country some good to be in session."

Energy

"I think we made a major mistake in the past not developing some alternative sources of energy -- hydro power, wind power and solar power ... One thing we could do on an immediate basis is to take away the antitrust exemption from OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.) OPEC countries -- Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and other countries -- get together in a room and decide to lower production and that raises prices. There is one law that is observed and that is the law of supply and demand.

"... I visited ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) 20 years ago in 1988. In fact ... my wife and I went up with Cindy and John McCain at the same time. I saw there that ANWR would have a footprint about as big as the Philadelphia Airport ... I have a very strong environmental record and I have believed ANWR ought to be developed.

"... Oil has not only stymied our economy, it has built other countries into political problems. Russia is so wealthy now, they're giving us all sorts of headaches."

A balanced budget

"I believe we need some structural changes in our government. I believe we need a constitutional amendment for a balanced budget. Right now, with the war in Iraq, it's pretty tough. I believe knowing Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, we would not have gone into Iraq, but once there, I think we really can't just cut and run or leave them in an unstable situation.

"When the war is over ... I think we ought to pass the constitutional amendment. I voted for it three times. Once it failed by just one vote ... We also need the line-item veto, so the president can strike certain items that are excessive, like 'the Bridge to Nowhere.'"

Foreign policy

"I think we need to exhaust all diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran not to have a nuclear weapon. It's an intolerable situation for that country with their leadership to have that kind of destructive power.

"I would like to see us be tougher with Russia over the invasion of Georgia. I think we ought to let the Russians know they'll have to pay a price for that ... We ought to give serious consideration to ousting them from the G-8."

Will politicians have the "courage" to raise taxes to balance the budget?

"We have a budget which is 3 trillion, 100 million dollars and I believe, that before we start to talk about increasing taxes, we start assessing priorities, where the money really ought to be spent ... Let's see what's most important."

Health care reform

"I'm supporting the plan which has been adopted on a bipartisan basis by Sen. Ron Wyden, the Democrat from Oregon, and Republican Robert Bennett of Utah, which covers all Americans. It's modeled after the Massachusetts plan, and it's designed to provide affordable care with subsidies."

On cancer

"I found the best therapy was to stay on the job. The busier I got, the better off I was. The less time I had to think about myself, the better off I was."

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