- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

A major ideological shift would take place in the Senate if Republicans regain the majority on Nov. 5, both parties agree.
"The Senate would be a dramatically different place under Republican leadership," said Tovah Ravitz-Meehan, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director. "The only internal fight they would be between the between right and the far right wing over who should prevail more often in setting their agenda."
The switch would make a huge difference, according to the voting records of Democratic and Republican leaders.
Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, who would become majority leader again if the GOP captures control of the Senate, has a lifetime rating of 93 from the American Conservative Union, compared with an ACU rating of 13 for current Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
That difference is mirrored in the ratings of Democratic committee chairmen and the Republicans who hope to replace them.
A Republican victory Nov. 5 would mean that Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, with an ACU rating of 79, would take over the Foreign Relations Committee whose current Democratic chairman, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, has an ACU rating of 14. And the Judiciary Committee where President Bush's nominations to the federal bench have been thwarted for more than a year would get a new chairman, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, whose lifetime voting record is rated 90 by the ACU, to replace Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat with an ACU lifetime rating of 6.
Republicans pretty much know but aren't necessarily happy with their new leadership lineup. They say that even if the GOP takes over, the Senate won't be quite as conservative as when they controlled the chamber from 1995 to mid-2002.
Gone will be the two most influential conservatives: Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina and Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas. Three other reliable votes on the right, those of Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, Sen. Robert C. Smith of New Hampshire and Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, also will be missing. All five are retiring this year.
Mr. Gramm and Mr. Helms were the go-to men on foreign policy and economic issues respectively. The departure of these two dominant figures gives room for two previously low-profile senators, Jon Kyl of Arizona and Larry E. Craig of Idaho, to become more visible as conservative Republican leaders.
Next year, Mr. Kyl will replace the term-limited Mr. Craig as Republican Policy Committee chairman.
None of the Republican candidates running for the seats left open by the five retiring Senate Republicans has equivalent stature among conservatives, several Senate colleagues said privately.
Former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander appears likely to win Mr. Thompson's seat. "But Lamar Alexander is not as conservative as any of those five," said a senior Senate aide.
Elizabeth Dole, a former Cabinet officer in previous Republican administrations and wife of former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas, is considered likely to win Mr. Helms' seat. Many Republicans, however, regard her as unbound by any deep ideological commitments.
Polls show Texas Attorney General John Cornyn is likely to win election to replace Mr. Gramm, "but whether he'll develop into the kind of influential leader on [conservative] issues and principles that Phil Gramm has been well, we'll have to wait and see," a Republican senator confided. "Gramm is irreplaceable."
Should they regain control of the Senate, Republicans envision only two major leadership changes from the last time they had the majority.
Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles will be out as Republican whip because of party-imposed term limits on leadership posts. Some conservative senators had hoped he would challenge Mr. Lott for majority leader in the new Senate, but Mr. Nickles this week abandoned that bid.
Vying to replace Mr. Nickles as whip is Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell and Mr. Craig. Colleagues say both are philosophical conservatives with a knack for clear and forceful rhetoric.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide