U.S. Markets closed

Party Extremists Are Ruling Washington and ‘They’re Tougher Than Hell’: Arlen Specter

Daily Ticker

Arlen Specter, the fiery former senator from Pennsylvania, has returned to the spotlight, haranguing his Beltway colleagues and giving an unvarnished view of Congress in his new book, "Life Among The Cannibals." Specter was elected to the Senate in 1980 as a moderate Republican but switched parties in 2009 because "as the Republican party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party," Specter said at the time. Specter ultimately lost his seat to two-term Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak in the 2010 midterm election, ending the storied career of one of the Senate's most well-known and influential figures.

In a no-holds-barred interview with The Daily Ticker, Specter shares his views on Congress, Citizens United, the Tea Party and more.

On the current state of Congress:

America is not being governed, Specter says. Extremist members in the Republican and Democratic parties are controlling the parties, causing the gridlock that threatens to shut down the government, he notes. As a result, lawmakers are afraid to buck party lines in fear that they will be booted out of office. Specter points to longtime Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who forced to run as an Independent after liberal Democrats voted against him in the state's 2006 primary and Bob Bennett, the former Republican Senator from Utah, who was defeated in 2010 by an aggressive campaign led by the Tea Party despite being well-liked and having a fairly conservative record in Congress. Olympia Snowe, the moderate Republican senator from Maine, recently announced she was retiring from the Senate because of the increasingly partisanship environment in Washington. The Tea Party, Specter says, intends to drive out all moderates in Congress including sitting senators Dick Luger of Indiana and Orrin Hatch of Utah.

"There's not a single moderate left in the Republican Congress," Specter argues. "The art of politics is the art of the possible — it is accommodation. You have a very complex society with many divergent rules. Today, compromise is a dirty word in Congress. The extremists have laid down the gauntlet and they're tougher than hell."

On the Supreme Court:

Citizens United "was a horrendous decision," Specter says. "The court has gone too far ...it's really out of control. It disregarded a 100-year-old precedent."

Specter, a fervent supporter of healthcare reform, says President Obama's Affordable Care Act is "constitutional and a legitimate exercise of congressional authority."