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Jeffords Jilts GOP (Posted May 24, 2001)

As expected, Vermont Senator James Jeffords announced today that he was leaving the Republican party, becoming an independent, and voting to give Democrats control of the Senate. The seismic shift has profound consequences for national policymaking. At the immediate level, the change puts Democrats in control of Senate committees and gives them responsibility over scheduling and the agenda, both important assets in political battles. This means they will have the ability to delay and sometimes block key Bush initiatives, such as judicial nominees and legislative action on unpopular bills.

However, the move also complicates Democratic efforts to recapture control of Congress in the 2002 elections. Rather than facing a united target with a GOP in control of the presidency, House, and Senate, and thereby with full control of the national government, now Democrats will have to accept responsibility for majority control of one chamber. It will not be enough to blame Republicans for bad things which happen. They too will have culpability, which will make it considerably more difficult to pin responsibility on the GOP.

Look for both sides to compromise on a few things, such as education reform, so as to demonstrate that Democrats and Republicans can work together. However, Bush initiatives in the energy and environmental areas will be threatened as will more conservative judicial appointments. Other issues, such as Bush hopes of a partial privitization of Social Security and Medicare reform, will move to the back-burner and suffer a quiet death.
Copyright 2000Karen Martin Media Services