Biden praises Specter for courage in cancer fights

Former senator laid to rest in cemetery near Philadelphia

Published: 5:59 AM EDT Oct 16, 2012   Updated: 6:32 AM EDT Oct 17, 2012

Vice President Joe Biden said he's never seen someone with as much "undaunted courage" as former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter and that his example should give hope to all families fighting cancer.

Specter was mourned Tuesday at his funeral in Lower Merion Twp., Montgomery Co. He died Sunday at the age of 82 after battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

He had fought two previous bouts with Hodgkin's lymphoma, and also overcame a brain tumor and cardiac arrest following bypass surgery.

"He believed he could change the world, if he just worked hard enough at it," Biden said.

For most of his 30 years as Pennsylvania's longest-serving U.S. senator, Specter was a Republican, though often at odds with the GOP leadership. His breaks with his party were hardly a surprise: He had begun his political career as a Democrat and ended it as one, too.

"He really set the standard for working across party lines and we're going to miss that," said U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, adding that Specter taught him a lot when he joined the Senate.

Specter lost his job amid the very polarization that he had repeatedly attacked: He crossed political party lines to make the toughest vote he had ever cast in his career when, in 2009, he became one of three Republicans to vote for President Obama's economic stimulus bill.

For Specter, the benefit of crossing party lines wasn't always about being true to his convictions. He also used it to benefit the causes he championed.

"He was a master politician," said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. "He was as smart as a whip."