March 14, 2005


GOP taking advantage of election gains (DAVID ESPO, March 14, 2005, AP)

At first glance, abortion and bankruptcy might not seem to have much in common. Except in Congress, where partisan divisions on one have long held up legislation affecting the other. That's soon to end, as Republicans begin converting last fall's election gains into this year's bills for President Bush to sign.

"I came to the U.S. Senate to get things done, and so far we are delivering," said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, one of seven newly elected Republicans who give the Senate a more conservative cast. In all, the GOP gained four seats last November and now holds 55. [...]

[C]onservative Republicans in the House no longer view the Senate as the chamber where their favorite bills go to die.

"The amount of legislation that's passing is pretty big," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a deputy whip. In addition to the class action lawsuit bill and bankruptcy measure, he said, "I think we'll get an energy bill, a highway bill and maybe" legislation to resolve asbestos claims.

The Senate put its new conservative face on display last week on several issues.

After two years of dodging a vote on a Democratic call for a minimum wage increase, the Republicans allowed one to go ahead and prevailed. [...]

An attempt to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, killed on a vote of 52-48 in 2003, was folded into the Senate Republicans' budget that recently cleared committee. Democrats will attempt to strip it out this week in the full Senate. Republicans predict they will prevail this time, after maneuvering successfully to have the issue decided by majority vote rather than an unwinnable 60-vote test.

Betsy Loyless, vice president of the League of Conservation Voters, predicted opponents of drilling would win the fight, although she conceded last fall's elections made the 2005 struggle "the toughest vote that we've faced" on the issue. The House has voted previously to open the refuge, which is a key part of the Bush administration's energy plan.

The Senate balance has shifted on abortion, too.

"Elections matter. We have a pro-life Senate," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a prominent abortion opponent.

"Both houses have an anti-choice majority. So it's very difficult for us to be able to prevail on issues pertaining to upholding a woman's right to choose," concedes Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation.

The seats the GOP stands to add in '06 make it all the more important for Democrats to stop being merely obstructionist and work out some compromises while they can still influence legislation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 14, 2005 4:26 PM

But they almost certainly won't.

Posted by: ray at March 14, 2005 8:26 PM

They've managed to put themselves in a lose-lose position. If they cooperate at all, they lose support from the radical base. If they don't cooperate, as Orrin points out, they lose more seats. Gotta love it.

Posted by: jd watson at March 14, 2005 9:29 PM

hold on there, Mr. New England whose racist Red Sox never had a player anything like the great Mr. Mays; one should not refer to Mr. Mays' sorry short stay with the Mets as anything but a national tragedy, a desecration of a national monument; the decline of the Democrats is cause for celebration, not misbegotten backwoods allusions

Posted by: Palmcroft at March 15, 2005 6:58 AM


The clue is in the story: Once upon a time the Senate was the place....

Posted by: oj at March 15, 2005 7:24 AM