Jewish World Review Nov. 15, 2002 / 10 Kislev, 5763
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | It sure must make the Republicans feel good to speak of "one-party" control in Washington, but it's far from the truth. As President Bill Clinton found out in 1993-94, anybody without 60 votes in the Senate cannot be said to control anything.
Indeed, the fantasy that there was one-party domination in the two years after the 1992 election curtailed any outreach Clinton might have done to reach Republican votes and led to his dependence on congressional liberals in his own party. This reliance forced him ever further to the left until he complained that, "I've become so liberal that I don't recognize myself any more."
The current 52-seat GOP edge in the Senate (which could grow to 53 should Mary Landrieu lose in Louisiana) merely gives the Republicans the potential to govern, it does not assure them of a workable majority on any major issue. To get there, they need seven or eight cooperative Democrats.
Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bush should go about forming a de facto third party in the Senate of the upper chamber's moderate Democrats. By working closely with them on legislation and appointments and by affording these moderates a level of power available to no other Democrat, the Republicans can, indeed, fashion a working, filibuster-proof majority.
The recent improvement in GOP fortunes in the South suggest that some of the more enlightened Southern Democrats might see the writing on the wall and work cooperatively with the Republican majority on key issues. It's not hard to imagine negotiating with the likes of Sens. John Breaux (D-La.), Zell Miller (D-Ga.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and the newly elected Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). Outside of the South, Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and the narrowly reelected Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) might make attractive partners.
Lott should choke back his resentment and reach out to Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) to add to the ranks of his moderate negotiating partners. Even Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), anxious to advance his reputation as a moderate who transcends party to make progress, could be an important part of any bipartisan coalition.
Lott should also end the "gentleman's filibuster" which has prevailed in recent years in the Senate where partisans don't really need to stand on their feet and talk forever to hold the floor and block action.
Lott should wait for an opportunity to present itself in which the Democrats are filibustering a particularly important national initiative (e.g., homeland security or prescription drug Medicare benefit) and actually force the Democrats to conduct a 1950s-style filibuster. Make the Democrats hold the floor 24/7 and show the nation, vividly on C-SPAN, how they are tying up the Senate to advance their agenda. Lott should use quorum calls, cloture votes and round-the-clock sessions to force the Democrats to appear unreasonable in tying up the Senate over partisan wrangling.
In the meantime, President Bush and Lott should reach out to moderate Democrats and make them part of their governing coalition, granting them access to White House favors and leverage in the substantive formulation of legislation. By empowering the moderates, Lott can make Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) the leader of only the majority of the minority, not of the entire Democratic delegation in the Senate.
The true lesson of the 2002 elections is that, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, voters do
not want bickering in Washington. They are willing to put aside their historic
preference for checks and balances through divided government to get consensus
and action on key issues that impact our security. This political reality can become a
crucial weapon in the hands of the Republican majority to thwart obstructionism by
forming relationships with key senators and by making the true partisans act
divisively in public before an impatient national audience watching on television.
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