- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2000

For all of the media's exaltations over first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's election to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, the real Clinton congressional legacy will prove to be the eight years (and counting) that the once-omnipotent congressional Democratic Party will have been subjected to lowly minority status in both houses of the national legislature.

To be sure, Tuesday's election reduced Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate to razor-thin margins. With Washington state's Senate election still too close to call, the breakdown at the moment is 50-49 in favor of Republicans. Regardless of who wins the Washington seat and who is elected president, however, Republicans would still maintain control of the Senate. In the event of a Bush-Cheney administration and a victory by Maria Cantwell, Vice President Dick Cheney would become president of the Senate and be in a position to break a party-line tie vote. In the event of a Gore-Lieberman administration and a victory by Maria Cantwell, Vice President Joe Lieberman would be forced to resign his Connecticut Senate seat, setting the stage for Connecticut's GOP governor to appoint a Republican to serve for the next two years. For the third consecutive election, House Democrats managed to chisel away a net gain of fewer than a handful of seats. With two seats still too close to call, Republicans are guaranteed a majority of at least 220 to 211.

It is true that Tuesday's election diluted GOP majorities in both chambers. Yet, even as the bipartisan division approaches 50 percent, it hasn't reached that level. Thus, 100 percent of the powerful committee and subcommittee chairmanships will remain in Republican hands. That means that Democratic Old Bulls in the Senate Teddy Kennedy (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions), Patrick Leahy (Judiciary), Joe Biden (Foreign Relations), Paul Sarbanes (Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs), Carl Levin (Armed Services) and Robert Byrd (Appropriations) will not advance to the chairmanships.

In the House, Minority Leader Dick Gephardt once again failed to advance to speaker. Meanwhile, aging Democrats David Obey, 62 (Appropriations); John Conyers, 71 (Judiciary); John Dingell, 74 (Commerce); William Clay, 69 (Education and Workforce); Tom Lantos, 72 (International Relations); Charlie Rangel, 70 (Ways and Means); Ike Skelton, 68 (Armed Services) must be getting tired of toiling as relatively powerless ranking members of their committees. Once again their hopes for chairmanships have been dashed.

President Clinton flippantly gave his take on his party's failure to recapture either body of Congress for the third time. Typically, it was self-centered. Noting that Republicans first captured the House and Senate in 1994, Mr. Clinton observed, "Some people thought I was a lame duck in '95. So I just keep on quacking, and I've got another 10 weeks to quack." Cute. But how many once-powerful Democrats are laughing? More than likely, the Old Bulls are crying in their minority brew.

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