- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Republicans say their Senate leaders, unlike their House counterparts, cant seem to get the hang of keeping members loyal at crunch time.
"Our leadership doesnt have as much juice as the House Republican leaders," Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, told The Washington Times.
While other Republican senators share Mr. Santorums disappointment with the leadership, they are traditionally reluctant, due to the Senates custom of collegiality, to speak ill of fellow senators. Even Senate staffers insist on anonymity in criticizing Republican leaders.
"A number of times in the last year when votes were called, we thought we would win, but the votes turned out not to be there," complained a former Republican Senate aide. "Leaders dont like to lose and should have known they were going to lose the budget vote."
In that April 6 vote, Majority Leader Trent Lott and Assistant Majority Leader Don Nickles were unable to corral liberal Republican Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and James M. Jeffords of Vermont into supporting President Bushs tax-relief proposal.
As a result, Senate Republican leaders had to settle for a scaled-down resolution, nearly $400 billion short of what Mr. Bush had wanted in tax cuts.
Mr. Nickles also is majority whip. Some say he is too much of a "nice guy" to lean hard on recalcitrant Republicans in the Senate the way House Majority Whip Tom DeLay — whose hardball methods have earned him the sobriquet "The Hammer" does so effectively with House Republicans.
"Weve seen DeLay hold the line in the House, but it weakens in the Senate," a former Republican leadership aide said privately. "Part of it is Dons so nice."
Other Republicans fault Mr. Nickles preference for molding policy over the grub work of vote counting, stroking, cajoling and strong-arming members.
A former Senate aide described Mr. Nickles as "really good as a shock troop leader on a policy and on the political level, but not good on herding the cats."
Colleagues say that Mr. Nickles performance has improved. "Don is very focused on policy and for a long time that really was what drove him, but now he is doing a better job of whipping," Mr. Santorum said.
Some observers, however, said the budget votes outcome seemed to take Senate Republican leaders by surprise.
"That was just plain incompetence," said former Sen. Malcolm Wallop, a conservative Wyoming Republican. "You whip it, and if you know you are going to lose, you cast it in whatever direction you must to lay the blame on the other side."
Mr. Wallop pointed a finger at Mr. Lott. "Its early in the Bush administration, but Trent has been in Congress long enough," he said. "He ought to be able to be a little more acute when it comes to knowing things like whether you have the votes, and if you dont, there are all kinds of strategies."
In Mr. Wallops view, the buck stops with Mr. Lott, not Mr. Nickles. "The whip can only do what the leader tells him to do," Mr. Wallop said. "In the end, its the leader who asks for the whips count and makes the decision to go and if they didnt know the count, my guess is nobody asked."
Mr. Santorum said, however, the Republican leadership knew "in advance that we never had Chafee. Also, it turned out Jeffords was never really on board. The White House mishandled him a little bit; he felt jerked around and he jerked them back."
Another former Republican leadership aide agreed, up to a point. "The Senate has 100 independent operators and sometimes they act that way, so its not all Don Nickles fault," he said. "However, he is not a whip in the true sense of word as DeLay is. But any comparison is unfair because Tom is so extraordinarily good at what he does."
The Senate whip must keep a close eye on the Republican members, constantly working the floor, knowing what makes each member tick, insiders explain. In the House, Mr. DeLay calls his job "growing the vote."
"The whips job requires a certain antenna thats different from the one Nickles has," a former Senate aide said. "Thats not a criticism, just a fact. Don lacks that antenna to see where the 'problem children are, or to know what the handshakes between members on the Senate floor mean."
Mr. Lott was the Republican whip in the House and then the Senate before becoming majority leader.
"Lott often will wear both hats majority leader and whip but he cant do two jobs at the same time," said the former Senate aide. "Sometimes thats where not having a true whip like DeLay in the House hurts Senate Republicans."
Former Idaho Republican Sen. Steve Symms says, "Lott and Nickles and those guys are doing a pretty good job," but he confesses to being mystified that "we cant get all the Republicans in the Senate to vote together on an issue as clear-cut as cutting taxes."
The senators contrasted the Republicans difficulty in getting votes for the Bush tax-cut plan with their ease in approving President Reagans 1981 tax cut. Mr. Bushs proposed $1.6 trillion of tax relief over 10 years is much smaller, when corrected for inflation, than Mr. Reagans tax cut.
"Bushs proposal is so small and still we cant get our guys to vote," Mr. Symms said. "But then we couldnt get 51 Republicans in the Senate to back up the House Republicans on the Clinton impeachment."
Some conservatives say the current leadership is not as conservative, tough or astute in muscling members into line as when Republicans held the Senate for the first six years of the Reagan presidency.
The Reagan-era leadership was, however, a mixed bag ideologically. Tennessee Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., a centrist, was majority leader, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was whip and Idaho Sen. James McClure, a conservative, was conference chairman.
By mid-1984, Senate Republicans had elected Bob Dole of Kansas to replace the retiring Mr. Baker as majority leader. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, another centrist, became majority whip and John Chafee of Rhode Island, a liberal and the current senators father, was elected Senate Republican Conference chairman.
"We did keep our weak sisters in line when we had the majority, but it started going downhill with Dole and Simpson," Mr. Wallop said.
In Mr. Santorums view, however, "Dole never really looked out for people. Lott does that. He has meetings with members and asks them, 'What are your priorities for this year? Just so I know. He has tried to institutionalize that, to some degree."
Mr. Symms says the leaderships job "is more difficult today. With the Senate evenly divided between the parties, the Republican leaders dont have any votes to spare."
"I think the fact that we are dead even creates more mischief," Mr. Santorum said. "Everyone can be a free agent. Their leverage is maximized."

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