Tuesday :: May 24, 2005

Beware the Senate Democratic Moderates


by rayman

One of the more predictable tropes reverberating through the MSM is that last night's agreement averting the nuclear option was a triumph for the centrists in both parties, and a rebuke to the extremists on both sides (today's editorial in the Washington Post is a representative example). That is to say, Broderism is triumphant today.

Frankly, I don't give a damn about the Senate Republican moderates, even though they did deliver a nice kick in the eye to Dobson and the right-wing mujihadeen. First, they're "centrist" only in comparison to nutcases like Tom Coburn, which isn't saying much. In addition, they've rolled over to Taliban wing of their party on practically every issue; I doubt last night's agreement heralds a new era of assertiveness, if the last five years are any guide.

What does concern me, however, are the "moderates" on the Democratic side. Remember, Democrats are in a far more precarious situation with just 44 seats, so that the need for party unity is absolutely essential. Although Harry Reid was all smiles last night, it's important to remember that this wasn't his deal. Reid was fully prepared to marshall his troops today, as his planned 90-second speech scheduled for last night indicated. My concern is that, if the Gang of Seven went over the head of Reid this time, who's to say they won't do it again?

Apparently, the bonhomie that the Senate moderates enjoyed during the past few days may extend to other issues. For example, Lindsay Graham mentioned last night on Chris Matthews' show to "watch this group of 14 to come out with some deal for Social Security." Terrific.

But even if a compromise on Social Security doesn't materialize, let me offer another hypothetical in which the seven Democratic "moderates" undercut Reid. One argument among liberals who think last night's compromise was, on balance, a good deal is that it preserves the filibuster for a Supreme Court nomination fight. But suppose Bush nominates another right-wing extremist to succeed Rehnquist, such as J. Harvie Wilkinson of the 4th Circuit. Reid will undoubtedly move to filibuster the nomination, but if even five of these pusillanimous Senate Democrats decide that the situation does not constitute an "extraordinary circumstance," the filibuster would be off the table, and there would be little Reid could do about it.

Although it would be inaccurate to argue that the Gang of Seven--Byrd, Lieberman, Nelson, Pryor, Landrieau, Inouye, and Salazar--have wrested control of the Senate away from Harry Reid, they have made his job more difficult, as it more doubtful that he can now command the loyalty of his caucus on the filibuster, Social Security, and other pressing matters. Let's keep an eagle eye on these newly emboldened moderates.

rayman :: 2:20 PM :: Comments (5) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!