Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Magnificent Seven... or Eight.

So, an amendment killing all Medicaid cuts from the 2006 budget has passed in the Senate by a vote of 52-48. Voting for it were all 44 Democrats, independent Jim Jeffords, and seven Republicans, who are, in no particular order:

Gordon Smith (OR)
Arlen Specter (PA)
Olympia Snowe (ME)
Susan Collins (ME)
Lincoln Chafee (RI)
Mike DeWine (OH)
Norm Coleman (MN)

This list of Republicans is getting to be pretty common lately. Seven of these eight Republicans voted against the opening up of the Arctic Refuge yesterday (John McCain voted with his party this time.) Why aren’t they toeing the line for Bush, like Congress has been habitually doing in the past few years?

Answers are seldom simple. Motivations for these senators vary, I’m sure. Firstly, none of them come from solid Bush states; the only one of those states that Bush won was Ohio, and it was close. Several of them have elections to worry about next year, namely Snowe, Chafee and DeWine. Smith and Coleman are facing tough elections in 2008; Collins’ election might not be so tough. Specter is the only one on the list who doesn’t have to worry about reëlection; he was recently diagnosed with Hodgkins’ Disease, so he’s unlikely to seek another term when his current term is up in 2010.

So what’s going on? Does this indicate of some kind of moderation in the Republican Party? Or is this more due to fear of losing reëlection in states where constituents lean Democratic, and where they actually worry about Social Security benefits, responsible energy policy and environmental well being? I could only say for sure in the case of Senator Specter that it looks like he’s voting his conscience. Where the others are concerned, you can’t say for sure—but you sure can speculate…

The big question is: how long until Lincoln Chafee bolts from the Republican Party? And if he does, will he stay independent, like Jim Jeffords? Or will he join the Democrats? No doubt the Democrats would welcome Chafee with open arms—though no doubt they’d welcome either outcome.

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