Sources tell ABC News that Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pennsylvania, has informed the White House that he would like to consider remaining in public service after his Senate term ends at the end of this session, and White House officials are keeping an open mind about possible job openings for him.
Specter, who was defeated in his March primary by Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pennsylvania, is a close friend of Vice President Joe Biden and someone praised for his leadership in pushing for greater funding for the National Institutes of Health.
Sources said the job discussions are far from anything other than preliminary, and were not part of any "deal" when Specter switched parties and began supporting President Obama's agenda in earnest. Neither the White House nor Specter had any comment.
Talk of such a job, however, has raised eyebrows among Specter’s Republican Senate colleagues, who are now eyeing his votes with added scrutiny. For instance, Specter seemed not particularly impressed with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, whose nomination as solicitor general Specter opposed last year. This week, he announced support for her Supreme Court nomination.
Would Specter be interested in being a special envoy to help negotiate peace between Israel and Syria?
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported this week that he has been exploring such a role with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Specter has long ties to both Syria and Israel.
Before Specter went to Syria, he flew to Israel where, according to Ynet, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said Israel was willing to resume talks with Syria without preconditions. Specter was also asked to convey, according to Ynet, that one goodwill gesture might be for Assad to help broker the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Some who know Specter say he's eager to go out with a bang -- to have a more majestic career-ender -- and not to be known in perpetuity as a party switcher, an inquisitor of Anita Hill, or as a leading advocate on the Warren Commission of the single-bullet theory.