- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2006

Six Republican senators (John McCain of Arizona, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Bill Frist of Tennessee and George Allen of Virginia) have indicated a desire to seek the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. Congressional Quarterly, an authoritative, nonpartisan journal, has selected 30 “key votes” from the nearly 600 hundred recorded votes cast by senators during 2004 and 2005. Here is how these senators voted.

Last year, all six Republican senators (1) supported a bill to overhaul class-action lawsuits; (2) opposed a bankruptcy-reform amendment that would have discriminated against pro-life protesters; (3) voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement; (4) supported a bill banning certain civil lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of firearms and ammunition; (5) voted for the McCain amendment outlining detainee standards in the war on terror; and (6) supported the 2006 budget reconciliation bill that included $40 billion in savings over five years.

In 2004, all six Republicans (1) opposed a 10-year reauthorization of the assault-weapons ban; (2) supported a futile effort to stop a filibuster against a bill that would have limited punitive damages in malpractice suits against obstetricians and gynecologists; (3) opposed an amendment to block regulations that would have limited some workers’ eligibility for overtime pay; and (4) voted for a bill that would establish criminal penalties for injuring or killing a fetus during the commission of a violent crime.

Not surprisingly, Mr. McCain has veered from the Republican pack more often than the others. The deficit hawk from Arizona, who opposed the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, voted in 2004 to require that future tax cuts or new entitlement spending be offset by revenue increases or spending cuts unless 60 or more senators approved the measure without the offsets. Mr. McCain also supported the 2004 filibuster against the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In 2005, Mr. McCain supported an amendment favoring mandatory, market-based limits on greenhouse gases (provided the limits did not harm the economy). Mr. McCain was also the only likely GOP presidential candidate who voted against (1) the 2005 energy bill, which passed 74-26; (2) the earmark-filled 2005 highway bill, which passed 91-4; and (3) a 2005 amendment, which passed 79-19, requiring the president to explain the strategy for completing the Iraq mission and to submit quarterly reports to Congress detailing U.S. operations in Iraq.

In December, Mr. Hagel was the only likely Republican presidential candidate who supported the successful filibuster to delay reauthorization of the 2001 Patriot Act. Otherwise, Mr. Hagel’s 2004 and 2005 votes were consistent with the majority of the other likely presidential candidates. For his part, Mr. Brownback cast all 30 CQ-designated “key votes” for 2004 and 2005 in conformity with the majority of the other five potential candidates.

Mr. Frist deviated from the group when he voted for the 2004 version of the highway bill, which Mr. Allen also supported. Alone among the six, Mr. Frist supported an amendment that would have restricted the 2005 military-base-closing round to overseas bases and delayed until 2007 the closing of any domestic bases.

Unlike the others, Mr. Allen and Mr. Santorum opposed an amendment in 2004 that would increase mandatory child-care funding by $6 billion over five years. Mr. Allen was the only likely Republican presidential candidate who voted for a 2005 amendment (rejected 82-15) that would have transferred $125 million from two Alaskan bridge projects to the reconstruction of a New Orleans bridge damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Mr. McCain’s office said he would have voted for the transfer had he been in town.

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