Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) said Sunday in his first TV interview since becoming a Democrat last week he had not promised to be “a loyal Democrat” and would lead a filibuster against his new party if he felt strongly enough about an issue.
Specter told David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he had determined “with polls and a lot of personal contact” that his reelection prospects as a Republican were “bleak.”
But he added: “There’s more than being reelected here. There’s the factor of principle. The Republican Party has gone far to the right since I joined it under Reagan’s big tent. … In recent times, I have diverged materially from the Republican line … As the picture has evolved, I felt a lot more comfortable – as a matter of principle – with Democrats than Republicans.”
Specter heatedly denied a Wall Street Journal report that he had told the White House that he would be “a loyal Democrat.”
““I have shown, repeatedly, my independence — willing to cross party lines — when I thought the interests of the American people and Pennsylvania required it,” Specter said. “If I see that there are other issues where I feel as a matter of conscience, I will continue a filibuster against legislation.”
Specter repeated the news, previously reported, that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had agreed to allow him to keep his seniority.
“That’s an entitlement. I’ve earned the seniority,” he said. “I will be treated by the Democrats as if I’d been elected as a Democrat.”
Asked if Democratic leaders had seen to it that he would not face a primary challenge, Specter said: “They have not – flatly, not.”
Asked his core principles, the first two Specter listed were “freedom, a woman’s right to choose.”
Specter, a survivor of the cancer Hodgkin's lymphoma, has opened a website to push for more medical research.