- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

Tuesday's historic election victories for Republicans have energized incoming Senate leaders, who called it a mandate for President Bush's agenda and a signal to end partisan gridlock.
"The American people have indicated that they want the Congress, the House, the Senate, the president to work together, to get things done, to produce results, not get tangled up in the partisan politics that we saw so much of this year here in the Senate," said incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.
In the 108th Congress, Republicans will control 51 seats and Democrats 47, with one independent, Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont. The Louisiana seat will not be decided until a Dec. 7 runoff between Democrat Sen. Mary L. Landrieu and Republican state Commissioner of Elections Suzanne Haik Terrell.
No challenge to the current Republican leadership team is apparent, and talk of Sen. Lincoln Chaffee defecting to the Democratic Party has subsided.
Before leadership can switch hands, Democrats have to agree to an organizational resolution, and they could unleash some dirty tricks as payback to Republicans, said Tripp Baird, director of Senate relations for the Heritage Foundation.
"There are a myriad of little delay tactics they could do," said Mr. Baird, a former leadership staffer.
"But they have to ask themselves, will it pass the laugh test? This election was an indictment of Senate leadership, and they will look even sillier than they already do," he said.
When Republicans assign committee chairmanships, several senior members would face term limits and reassignment under the current rules: Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, Appropriations chairman; Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Commerce chairman; and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Judiciary chairman.
If Mr. Stevens steps down from Appropriations, he still would have seniority on Commerce and Mr. McCain could find himself without a chairmanship. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is expected to chair the Veterans Affairs Committee. He also has seniority on Appropriations and Judiciary, but can only claim one chairmanship.
A Senate leadership aide acknowledged Democrats could continue to obstruct efforts to create a Homeland Security Department and to pass spending bills, but said he hoped Democrats would rise above their losses.
"We think the American people have spoken on their faith in the Democratic Party and that it is in their best interest to do what's right and work to pass bills and not do things that will worsen their standing," the aide said.
Another Republican aide said party leadership could limit Democrat high jinks by keeping the lame-duck session that begins next week brief.

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