- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2001

Given Mr. Bushs extremely close victory and the slim margins in the House and the evenly split Senate, where only Vice President Dick Cheneys tie-breaking vote guaranteed that Republicans would organize that body, it was clear after the election that Republicans needed a unified front. It was, after all, expected that Democrats would provide a fiercely unified front of their own, something they have managed to do.
Therefore, it is understandable why the White House is extremely frustrated over the fact that three renegade Republican senators Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and James Jeffords of Vermont early last month provided Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle with their indispensable votes. The issue was whether the Republican-controlled Senate would ratify the Houses earlier decision to endorse the size of Mr. Bushs budget and his 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax-relief plan, which just happened to comprise the most important domestic policy plank of his presidential campaign. At the very moment Mr. Bush desperately needed their votes to move his campaign agenda forward, Sens. Specter, Chafee and Jeffords stuck their collective thumb in the presidents eye and turned their backs on their party in the process. During the budget resolution debate on April 4, all three voted for an amendment sponsored by archliberal Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, which effectively reduced Mr. Bushs tax-relief proposal by $448 billion over 10 years and added another $224 billion in educational spending during the same period.
Given how infrequently Republicans have controlled both bodies of Congress and the White House cumulatively, since Franklin Roosevelt was elected president in 1932, such Republican domination has occurred for two years (the first two years of the Eisenhower administration) and roughly 100 days (the current Bush regime) it defies comprehension why three senators would deny their partys leader the one vote he wanted them to make on his behalf more than any other so far.
None of the three is even up for re-election in 2002, and only Mr. Specter, who won his 1998 race by 800,000 votes and 27 percentage points, faces voters in 2004. Mr. Jeffords won his 2000 re-election race by more than 40 percentage points, receiving two of every three votes cast in Vermont for U.S. senator. Mr. Chafee, who finished the fourth term of his late father, also won his 2000 election in a landslide, capturing nearly six of every 10 votes cast for him and his main opponent. Yet not one of these three essentially invulnerable incumbents was willing to give Mr. Bush the this important vote in the early months of his presidency. They may chatter all they want about how their votes were cast for the sake of principle. From here, their votes look like acts of disloyalty. They are certainly nothing to be proud of.


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