President Obama began his 100th day in office with the newest Democratic senator by his side, telling Arlen Specter his defection from the Republican party was welcome but he does not expect his new ally to be a “rubber stamp” for his policies.
Mr. Obama lauded Mr. Specter for his independence and for “courage” to make his decision. Mr. Obama noted they can be partners on health care, education, expanding the nation’s manufacturing base and medical research but that he doesn’t expect Mr. Specter to agree with all of his choices.
“I don’t expect Arlen to be a rubber stamp, I don’t expect any member of Congress to be a rubber stamp,” he said. “I’m eager to receive his counsel and advice, especially when he disagrees.”
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The president said the news reflects his administration is open to “many different ideas” and aims to seek common ground, adding in his first acknowledgment of what his team has mocked as a “Hallmark holiday” that he hopes the nation’s voters see “after 100 days we begin to move this nation in
the right direction.”
Mr. Obama repeated what his aides told reporters Tuesday when the news sent a shockwave through Washington - that he would fully support the new Democrat during his upcoming primary election. That includes campaigning and raising money, aides said.
“We are confident that Arlen Specter is going to get a sixth term in the U.S. senate and the American people are better for it,” Mr. Obama said, adding his friend is “one tough hombre.”
Mr. Specter said he will “not be an automatic 60th vote” for Mr. Obama’s Democratic party but said he thinks he can help by sharing his “views on centrist government.”
Vice President Joe Biden, a former longtime senator instrumental to the switch by making a host of phone calls to lobby his Republican friend that he used to share train rides with to Washington, said Mr. Specter has both integrity and “piercing intellect.”
Mr. Biden said there is no way Mr. Specter would “cash in his independence.”