- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Members of a coalition of 14 senators that struck the deal on judges this week said they do not see the group becoming a major player on other issues.

“We don’t have any plans,” said Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican and one of the senators who signed a memorandum of understanding that averted a vote to ban the filibustering of judicial nominations.

Mr. DeWine said the group didn’t set out to create a power center in the Senate, but wanted to reinvigorate a spirit of restraint and cooperation.

“People look at this and say it’s unusual. It’s not unusual, because issues have to be dealt with by senators of both parties,” Mr. DeWine said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said on MSNBC’s “Hardball” program Monday night that the group may come together on Social Security.

Mr. Graham and President Bush have disagreed publicly over how to fund voluntary private accounts, with the former proposing to subject more of a worker’s income to the payroll tax.

“Watch this group of 14 to come out with some deal for Social Security,” Mr. Graham told host Chris Matthews, arguing that by cutting the deal on judges the group had created “an environment for problem solving.”

Others said they also wanted to change the tone, but cautioned not to read too much into this coalition.

“I don’t see it as a group of 14, just more about on the issues,” said Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat. “I think what really comes from this effort was the sort of cooperation driven by good faith.”

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican widely seen as the leader of the group, said it’s not clear what issues the group would come together on.

“I just don’t know. It was such a transcendent issue that brought us together,” Mr. McCain said.

In addition to Mr. McCain, Mr. DeWine and Mr. Graham, the Republicans in the coalition were Sens. John W. Warner of Virginia, Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

In addition to Mr. Nelson, the Democrats who struck the deal were Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Ken Salazar of Colorado and Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii.

They spent days hammering out their compromise, in which the seven Democrats allowed up-or-down votes on three nominees and promised restraint on future filibusters in exchange for the seven Republicans’ forbearance in voting to rule filibusters unconstitutional.

But even as they announced the agreement, group members gave different interpretations of when a filibuster would be acceptable, suggesting that they will have to prove they can be cohesive on this issue before moving on to others.

Those outside the group said they don’t see it turning into a new base of power in the Senate.

“This was a group that was formed on this one particular issue,” said Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican.

Mr. Allen also noted that none of the seven freshman Republicans, whom he helped elect when he was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and calls the “magnificent seven,” was part of the group.

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