PHILADELPHIA – Sen. Arlen Specter, the moderate conscience of Pennsylvania Republicans, on Wednesday urged the party to re-evaluate its priorities in the wake of nationwide election losses and called for a more progressive agenda that changes the strategy in Iraq and puts more emphasis on education and health care at home.
Democrats took solid control of the House in Tuesday’s elections, while control of the Senate – and possibly the future of Specter’s leadership position as Judiciary Committee chairman – rested Wednesday on an extremely close race in Virginia.
“We have just witnessed a seismic earthquake,” Specter said in an address to the Committee of Seventy, an election-watchdog group, at the Union League in Philadelphia. “There will have to be a fundamental re-evaluation of what is going on in Iraq.”
President Bush and Congress will have to find a way to stabilize Iraq, Specter said. “The Iraqis have to know we can’t be there forever,” he said.
In addition to the war, which he called a key factor in the losses of fellow Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum and others, Specter said his party will have to become “a lot more progressive and a lot less ideological.”
Specter commended Santorum for his candor, but said Pennsylvania’s junior senator paid the price at the polls.
“Rick took a lot of controversial positions,” Specter said. “You saw the results yesterday.”
He blamed close Senate races in Virginia and Montana, as well as the loss of Missouri Republican Sen. Jim Talent, on the party’s opposition to stem-cell research. Specter, a cancer survivor, strongly supports federal spending on such research.
Will this ever stick? The Republican part is not against stem-cell research. Jim Talent, President Bush, Rick Santorum, have been against the federal funding of embryo-destroying research. That is one type of stem-cell research.