SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER
B I O G R A P H Y
Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania's senior U.S. Senator, chairs the Senate
Veterans Affairs Committee and is a senior member of the Appropriations
Committee, the Judiciary Committee and the Government Affairs
Committee. In the 104th Congress, he chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator Specter is a legislative leader on education, health care, crime, drugs
and terrorism. As chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee overseeing the
Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, he led
the fight to increase NIH funding in the last four years by more than $8
billion (currently at $20.3 billion) and to provide $1.45 billon in fiscal year 2001
for programs geared toward reducing the incidence of youth violence under an action
plan administered by the Surgeon General. In 1991, he helped create a separate Women's
Health Unit at NIH. In addition, Senator Specter helped defeat the bureaucratic Clinton national
health care plan, and has been pressing his own plan for incremental health care reform and coverage
for children. Senator Specter has also co-sponsored key domestic violence legislation, and
chairs the newly created Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight of the Department of Justice,
FBI and other federal agencies review of Chinese espionage, campaign finance and Waco.
Senator Specter's Armed Career Criminal Act, signed into law in 1984 and
expanded in 1986, carries a mandatory 15-year prison sentence for a career
criminal found carrying a firearm, and has proven especially effective
against major drug traffickers. His death penalty legislation streamlines the
once-endless federal appeals process.
A former prosecutor and investigator, Senator Specter led the Veterans
Affairs Committee investigation in1999 of Gulf War Illness (from possible
exposure to chemical weapons) and in 1995 led the investigation of the
killings at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, which prompted changes in FBI and ATF
policy. In the only tangible legislative reform to come from the Iran-Contra
scandal, he was responsible in 1989 for creating Inspectors General of the
CIA, which in turn exposed Soviet mole Aldrich Ames, assassinations in
Guatemala, and tainted Soviet materials passed to the President.
A fiscal conservative, Senator Specter has pressed for the Balanced Budget
Amendment and line-item veto, and was the first to introduce a flat-tax bill
to lower federal taxes and simplify filing. He has also fought for assistance to
farmers and for relief efforts in the wake of droughts, floods and the Avian Flu.
Arlen Specter began his public service career as an assistant Philadelphia
District Attorney. He was appointed to the Warren Commission staff where
he played a leading role in investigating the assassination of President
Kennedy. During two terms as District Attorney, he helped restore death
penalty statutes in Pennsylvania, fought against consumer fraud, cracked
down on rape and other crimes of violence, and relentlessly prosecuted corrupt public officials.
Arlen Specter was born to immigrant parents in Wichita, KS, and grew up in the
small town of Russell, KS. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of
Pennsylvania, then served stateside in the Air Force Office of Special
Investigations for two years. He graduated from Yale Law School, where he was an
editor of the law journal.
Senator Specter lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Joan. They have two
sons, Shanin and Steve. Shanin and his wife, Tracey, have four daughters,
Silvi, Perri, Lilli and Hatti.