WASHINGTON — Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is a key player in the congressional battles over President Bush's judicial nominees and efforts to overhaul the legal system, announced Wednesday that he had been diagnosed as having Hodgkin's disease.
Specter, who turned 75 on Saturday, said he would undergo chemotherapy every two weeks for up to 32 weeks at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania. He also said he expected to be able to perform "all duties of his office, including those related to the chairmanship" of the Judiciary panel.
"I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents; and I'm going to beat this too," he said in a statement.
Specter has infuriated conservatives over the years by such actions as opposing President Reagan's nomination of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court and joining efforts to scale back Bush's tax cuts. Last year, he narrowly beat a more conservative challenger to win a fifth term.
Late last year, he survived an effort by religious conservatives to deny him the Judiciary Committee gavel. Conservatives objected that Specter, a supporter of abortion rights, could not be trusted to back Bush's judicial nominees who oppose abortion.
Specter has pledged to help lead the Republican effort to try to overcome Democratic-led filibusters that have blocked several of Bush's judicial nominees and to advance the president's proposals to overhaul the nation's legal system. Last week, Specter helped push through the Senate a measure that would impose new restrictions on class-action lawsuits. The House is expected to approve the bill today and send it to Bush.
A statement issued by Specter's office quoted his oncologist, Dr. John H. Glick as saying that the senator has "an excellent chance of being completely cured" of Hodgkin's disease, a cancer that originates in the lymph nodes.
"Sen. Specter's Hodgkin's disease has a five-year survival rate of 70%," Glick, a medical professor at Penn, said in the statement. "He is in superb physical condition, particularly in light of his daily squash regimen."
Specter said he had medical tests Monday after having persistent fevers and enlarged lymph nodes. A lymph node biopsy was positive for Hodgkin's disease. A bone marrow biopsy showed the cancer had not spread.