Republican Senate leaders — terrified by the prospect of losing five or more seats in November — have freed their members to vote however they need to vote to get reelected, even if that means bucking the president or the party’s leadership.
On at least four votes over the past month — Medicare, housing, the GI Bill and the Farm Bill — Republican leaders haven’t even bothered whipping members to toe the party line or back President Bush’s veto threats. Instead, a GOP leadership aide says leaders have told vulnerable senators that it’s all right to “get well” with voters by siding with Democrats on anything but energy and national security.
It’s unusual for rank-and-file members to get a green light to blow off their party leaders. But these are unusual times for Republicans. They are genuinely worried they could get their clocks cleaned in November. The prevailing attitude: It is better to lose some big votes now than big races in November.
Call it the "Gordon Smith Re-election Escape Pod," since Oregon's Junior senator is miraculously on the non-Bush side of all four votes.
(Hm. Perhaps the way to bring Gordon Smith around would be a constitutional amendment shortening his term of office to six months--if he were constantly having to seek re-election, he would be forced to stay in his faux-moderate posture year-round. He wouldn't mean it, of course, but at least we'd get the votes we need out of him.
Or we could simply replace him with Merkley, which does seem a lot simpler.)
But some of these GOP Senators have been in such tight lock-step with Bush for the last eight years that their tongues might burst into flames before they could utter an "Aye" against the White House.
If nothing else, it should be interesting to watch Senate Republicans claw their way over one another to the lifeboats in the next couple of months. When even Saxby Chambliss is donning a life vest and scrambling over the railing, you know things are looking bad aboard the S.S. Bush.