- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 29, 2001

NEWS ANALYSIS

One thing that has not changed in the Senate, despite the switch to Democratic control, is its membership.
The same 100 senators are still there, and the chamber remains as deeply divided as ever, though President Bush can still win some key victories with the help of just a few Democratic allies.
Even with the Democrats in control of the Senates legislative machinery, Mr. Bush will still be able to enact major parts of his remaining agenda with the help of a bipartisan coalition that includes anywhere from six to 12 conservative Democrats, according to administration officials
"The Senate will present us with a different landscape. But weve got a working coalition, as was made evident by the votes on our tax cuts and on education reform," said Karl Rove, the presidents chief political strategist.
"Its going to make things more difficult for us. Well have a tougher road on certain policies and judicial nominations. But the presidents been in this situation before as governor of Texas and he still got his agenda through a Democratic legislature. And here weve got a Republican House and a Democratic Senate," Mr. Rove told The Washington Times. "We have confidence that we will be able to achieve our agenda," he said.
The new 50-49 Democratic majority — made possible by Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords decision to quit the Republican Party, become an independent and vote to put the Democrats in charge — is not a number that the White House believes is an accurate reflection of the current political alignment in the Senate.
Senior Bush advisers think that the administraton will have a working majority on a number of issues where they have been able to forge alliances with key Democrats. Unmentioned in the media analysis about how soon-to-be Majority Leader Tom Daschle will be able to block many of Mr. Bushs proposals is the fact that key Democrats have been working hand in glove with the White House to help pass key pieces of his agenda.
Despite Mr. Jeffords bitter complaint that he left the Republicans because the White House has not reached out to work with Democrats and Republican liberals like himself, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that is not the case.
Nowhere was this more self-evident than in the debate over Mr. Bushs tax cut plan which is nearing final congressional approval. Without the help of Sen. John Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, and a group of like-minded New Democrat centrists, it is hard to see how the tax cuts could have cleared the Senate.
Mr. Bush struck up a close working relationship with Mr. Breaux, meeting with him in Texas even before he took office and at several private dinners and other meetings since then. It was Mr. Breaux who brokered a compromise tax cut total in the budget bill and brought along five Democrats to help pass it.
The president worked with other Democrats in the Breaux group, including Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Zell Miller of Georgia, and Max Baucus of Montana who helped draft the compromise tax bill that passed the Senate with the support of 12 Democrats.
Similarly, Mr. Bush and his top advisers have been working closely with two top Democrats, Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and Rep. George Miller of California, on the education bill that is now making its way through Congress. The House passed the bill last week by a vote of 384-45 that included 197 Democrats.
"There have been extensive bipartisan negotiations on the education bill, theres no doubt about that, and they have been real," said Ralph Neas, president of the liberal advocacy group, People for the American Way.
The president has also been forging alliances on several other upcoming legislative proposals that the White House believes it has a good chance of passing.
The administrations emerging Medicare reforms are based on a plan rejected by the Clinton administration — that was produced by a bipartisan commission headed by Mr. Breaux. The senator is expected to be a pivotal ally in steering a Medicare bill through the Senate.


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