- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2004

The Republican gain of four Senate seats on Tuesday and defeat of Democratic Leader Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota has bolstered Republican hopes of ending the gridlock that plagued much of the administration’s legislative program and judicial appointments, party leaders say.

On Tuesday, Republicans took six Democratic seats, while losing two of their own, giving them a 55-44 edge with one Democratic-leaning independent.

“The sheer numbers will help. There’s not as much concern about losing two or three Republicans on a given issue, including judicial nominations,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican and chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

“We can pass a budget, which we couldn’t do this year. The Democrats still have the ability to filibuster, but these numbers also give us more options with respect to how we handle the confirmation of judges,” he said.

Nine new senators will be sworn in next January — seven Republicans and two Democrats. In addition to the eight seats that changed parties, former Rep. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, won the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Don Nickles, who has a 100 percent favorable vote rating from the American Conservative Union (ACU) and zero from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA).

“In terms of the Republicans, with the exception of Don Nickles, every one of them is more conservative than the person they replaced,” Mr. Kyl said. “It is both a conservative and experienced group.”

Former Rep. John Thune of South Dakota, the victor over Mr. Daschle, received a 92 percent favorable ACU rating and a 5 percent ADA rating in his last year in the House. Mr. Daschle was rated 22 percent by the ACU and 85 percent by ADA in 2002.

Similarly, retiring Democratic Sen. Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina got 15 percent conservative and 85 percent liberal ratings, while three-term Rep. Jim DeMint, his Republican successor, got a 100 percent ACU score and zero from ADA.

The pattern is the same for all Republican Senate pickups in the South.

• Rep. Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, with a 96 percent ACU rating, succeeds defeated Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards with a 30 percent score.

• Three-term Rep. David Vitter of Louisiana, with a 100 percent ACU score, succeeds retiring Democratic Sen. John B. Breaux with a 42 percent conservative rating and 65 percent ADA score.

• Three-term Rep. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, with a 96 percent ACU score, succeeds retiring Democratic Sen. Zell Miller, keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention, who has 47 percent ACU and 30 percent ADA scores.

• Mel Martinez, Mr. Bush’s former Housing and Urban Development secretary, also is more conservative than Florida’s retiring Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, who scored 20 percent ACU and 75 percent ADA ratings.

But potential snags lie ahead.

Republicans have four liberals who often join Democrats — Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine; Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island; and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Specter, who is expected to head the Senate Judiciary Committee, fired a shot across President Bush’s bow on Wednesday, saying, “I would expect the president to be mindful of … what happened, when a number of his nominees were sent up, with the filibuster.

“When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely,” Mr. Specter said, referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion a legal right.

The prospect of Mr. Specter as Judiciary Committee chairman has prompted protests to Senate Republican leaders from citizens nationwide, using e-mail lists and conservative Web sites and blogs.

“We have to let our senators know that the long-suffering conservatives who finally won their chance at turning this country around are not going to let Specter or anyone else get in the way,” Dan Arnold of Manassas wrote to one large national e-mail list, saying that Mr. Specter was “effectively telling pro-family conservatives to stuff it.”

Mr. Specter backed off a little yesterday, saying he “did not warn the president about anything” and pointing to his support for all of Mr. Bush’s judicial nominations and for the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

And from the other side of the aisle, Democrats warned that the filibuster option was not foreclosed to them.

“We will not flinch from using the tools available to us to protect and advance our party’s views and values on behalf of the American people,” said Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, chairman of the Democratic State Campaign Committee.

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