NARBERTH, Pa. -- Friends and dignitaries remembered five-term Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter at his funeral this afternoon as a statesman unafraid to maintain his independence, from his work for the commission investigating the Kennedy assassination to the 2009 stimulus vote he later credited with forcing his departure from the Republican Party.
"Arlen will always make the tough calls, from the single-bullet theory to the stimulus," said Stephen Harmelin, a Philadelphia attorney who served as treasurer on his campaigns. "He paid a very high price for how often he went his own way."
Hundreds of mourners gathered at Har Zion Temple in this Philadelphia suburb to pay their respects to Specter, who died Sunday at age 82 from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Attendees included Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime colleague on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who said none among his staff doubted he would cancel a campaign trip to the toss-up states of Colorado and Nevada to be at the funeral.
Mr. Biden recalled the power of persuasion that Specter brought to his advocacy for Pennsylvania in the Senate.
"I don't know why the hell I've done so much for Philadelphia," Mr. Biden said. "Godalmighty. It's amazing how long I worked for Arlen. He'd say, Joe, remember, you're Pennsylvania's third senator. And like a sucker I bought it."
Former governor Ed Rendell told the assembly that Specter had probably done more to serve Pennsylvania than anyone in the history of the commonwealth -- with the possible exception of Ben Franklin.
"There are kids in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and Harrisburg and Reading who are still in the school lunch program because Arlen Specter saved them," he said.
Karen Langley: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-787-2141. First Published October 16, 2012 6:30 PM