November 20, 2002
JUMP BACK:Washington Times' Wishful Thinking? (Washington Wrap, Nov. 20, 2002, CBS News)
A spokeswoman for Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords flatly denied a report in Wednesday's Washington Times that alleges the senator's office "put out feelers" to rejoin the Republican Party in the wake of the 2002 election.
Jeffords left the GOP in 2001 and became an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, giving them control of the Senate by a single vote. The GOP, of course, will be retaking control of the Senate soon and with it, control of committee chairmanships – including Jeffords' Environmental and Public Works Committee.
The allegation, which appeared in the lead editorial in Wednesday's Washington Times, said a "senior Senate leadership source" told them that Jeffords' office said he'd be willing to caucus with the GOP if he retained his committee chairmanship. "Republican leaders rightly rolled their eyes," the conservative paper said.
Mr. Jeffords desire to jump the sinking Democrat ship is actually perfectly consistent with his original jump from the GOP. In explaining that decision, he's said:
Because the Republican Party controlled the White House, the House of Representatives and, in effect, the Senate, its partisans were able to run the conference committees, which gave them final say about legislation sent to the president.
It became clear to me that the role of moderates would be limited in the Senate--and that any influence we managed to garner would be overridden by conference committees stacked with partisans. Consequently, many of the issues I care most about--education funding, child care, rights for the disabled, environmental protection, choice, campaign-finance reform--were being pushed aside. I was alarmed that these priorities would continue to fall by the wayside and partisanship would rule the day.
With the Senate evenly split between Democrats and Republicans for the first time since the 1880s, a single senator could shift control of the Senate and change the agenda of the entire legislative body. One person could make a dramatic difference.
In the face of this, my conscience pushed forward a question: What would be the consequence if I did not take action? What would happen with the direction of the judiciary? Tax and spending issues? Missile defense? Energy and the environment? The consequences of doing nothing weighed heavily. I had the power to dramatically change the course of history: If I did not do so, I would have to accept responsibility for the results.
Well, it's obvious that moderates are losing their influence in a Democrat Party that's racing to the Left and it's clear that, as a Democrat, Mr. Jeffords will have little or no influence on any of the issues he cares about until at least 2007, by which time he'll have had to face an increasingly Republican Vermont electorate, in a race where he'll likely face a third party challenge on the Left. What choice does he really have, either personally or ideologically, but to come crawling back to the GOP. After all, it's not as if he has to worry about his reputation or his sense of honor; he checked them at the door to the Democrat Caucus. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 20, 2002 3:12 PM