President Obama praised late Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) today as “fiercely independent – never putting party or ideology ahead of the people he was chosen to serve.”

Specter, who had battled cancer over the years, died at age 82 at his home in Philadelphia.

“When he announced that his cancer had returned in 2005, Arlen said, ‘I have beaten a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and many tough political opponents and I’m going to beat this, too,’” Obama said in a statement. “Arlen fought that battle for seven more years with the same resolve he used to fight for stem-cell research funding, veterans health, and countless other issues that will continue to change lives for years to come.  Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Joan and the rest of the Specter family.”

First elected to the Senate in 1981, Specter switched from the GOP to the Democratic Party in 2009. The gamble didn’t work and he lost the Democratic primary to Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) in 2010. Sestak would go on to lose to Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

“A man of sharp intelligence and dogged determination, Sen. Specter dedicated his life to public service and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Sen. Toomey said in a statement. “His impact on our state and public policy will not be forgotten. My wife Kris and I send our thoughts and prayers to Joan and the entire Specter family.”

“I am deeply saddened to learn that my friend Arlen Specter has passed away. My thoughts and prayers are with his family,” tweeted Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Specter “was always passionate, but always easy to work with.”

“Throughout his life, Senator Specter fought and won many battles, but this was one he could not win,” Reid said. “America is better today because of Arlen Specter. He will be dearly missed.”

“Arlen Specter – a dear friend who served his state and nation with honor and distinction. RIP,” tweeted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

However, not all reaction to Specter’s death was congenial.

“Specter just switched to the Dead Party,” tweeted Ann Coulter.