Showing posts with label senate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label senate. Show all posts


Unintended Consequences: Alaska's Senate and House Seats

Although Democrats are struggling with how to go on offense against her, the selection of Sarah Palin to be John McCain's running mate may have an unintended benefit for House and Senate Democrats. Alaska Senator Ted Stevens has been hobbled by a federal investigation into alleged ethics violations and will face off against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. Hopes for Stevens, who had just won the Republican primary, to fend of Begich are fading in light of ominous polls showing the mayor ahead of the veteran senator.

At first glance, Sarah Palin's presence on the national ticket would would seem to be a benefit for Alaska Republicans in that they would turn out in greater numbers to support their hometown hero. And that will probably happen. However, one of the central arguments for Palin's selection was that she was a reformer who cleaned up corruption in the state. As a result, she would be unable to endorse Stevens. Seeing that Palin is purported to represent everything that Stevens is against, it would highlight a rift between the two Republicans and likely leave Stevens with a diminished base of popular support.

The same could possibly be said of ethically challenged Congressman Don Young, who will have to hold off Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell. Palin endorsed Parnell, which, combined with Palin's nonendorsement of Stevens, burnishes Palin's profile as a bipartisan politician or an equal opportunity critic of corruption.

Palin's statewide popularity probably takes Alaska off the table for Barack Obama, even though polls have shown the race there to be more competitive than what would be expected. However, the corruption problems concerning the state's senior senator and lone congressman would likely lead to lots of ticket-splitting in which McCain-Palin would carry the state, Mark Begich would win a senate seat for Democrats, and Democrats would gain an unlikely house seat. Had Palin not been tapped by John McCain, both Stephens and Young could have made both contests local races. But the added media attention surrounding Palin will likely nationalize all statewide races and force her to choose sides. Unfortunately for Stevens and Young, that side is not Palin's side and both politicians stand to lose their races as a result.


Obama Veepstakes: Predictions

The major political buzz this week has centered around Obama's vice presidential selection. One of the main parlor games among pundits and the Washington crowd every four years is to guess the nominee and convey that they have more wisdom than the next guy in terms of identifying and disqualifying possible picks.

This wait is almost over now as Obama has announced that he has made his selection. This selection will be revealed either Friday or Saturday by text message. So in true political fashion, The 7-10 will join in the fun by offering my own take on the Obama veepstakes and why some of the more popular names being circulated won't pan out.

1. Obama has made great pains to avoid stepping on his own message by hitting John McCain below the belt. Even though his supporters may want him to go nuclear against his Republican rivals, Obama's message of "new politics" and "change" are preventing him from doing so. As I recently argued, he can't tarnish that message. Likewise, he is running as an outsider who represents fresh ideas. That's another message. Thus, even though there are some strong picks he could make who are currently serving in Washington, Obama's commitment to not diluting his brand may prevent him from taking them on board.

This eliminates Joe Biden, Evan Bayh, and any other active congressman or senator. Biden and Bayh in particular have received a lot of buzz and would be strong choices (especially Biden). But if Obama doesn't want to go against his message, he may have to grudgingly pass over both of them.

2. One of the responsibilities of the vice president is to cast the tie breaking vote in the Senate. Even though the Democrats are still poised to gain several seats, there are several influential senators who do not vote the party line, such as Senators Jim Webb of Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. So on some votes, Democrats' possible 55-seat majority could really be a mere 51-seat majority. Thus, it makes little sense for Obama to have his vice president, who doubles as the president of the Senate, be a Republican.

This eliminates Chuck Hagel, Richard Lugar, and any other Republican whose name has surfaced as the bottom half of a unity ticket. Interestingly, Obama could actually make the Senate math more favorable for Democrats by tapping a few Republican senators to serve in his cabinet if he wins the election. These senators would then be replaced by their states' governors. If the Republican senator hails from a state with a Democratic governor, that could be a way for the Democrats to pilfer a few seats while allowing Obama to appear bipartisan at the same time.

3. Obama cannot risk looking weak or bullied. He's already having to deal with the image that he is not a strong and decisive leader, especially when compared to the Navy veteran and former POW John McCain. Any gesture that is perceived as acquiescence or caving in to a particular interest group would likely only exacerbate the image of him as weak. Of course, politicians have to respond to voters and retool their messages every day, but his selection of a vice president should be his decision, and his only.

This eliminates Hillary Clinton. She also contradicts his message, which he is loathe to do. Many people say it's up to Barack Obama to heal the party by accommodating Hillary Clinton. But if Hillary Clinton wishes to advance her chances of being President someday, it's incumbent on her to do her part to ensure that her supporters rally behind Obama. All eyes will be on her at next week's convention, so she will have as much responsibility for achieving unity as Obama does.

4. Obama needs someone who knows how to campaign and work a crowd. This person has to be someone who knows how to throw a punch, how to connect with audiences, and how to campaign without overshadowing the presidential nominee himself. Running mates have two main responsibilities: 1) to do no harm to the nominee, and 2) to serve as an attack dog.

This eliminates Bill Richardson and Kathleen Sebelius. Bill Richardson tried to run as the grownup in the room after the Iowa caucuses, but lost badly. Richardson may help deliver a contingency and some Southwestern states, but he is not an energizing figure and is not particularly aggressive on the campaign trail. As for Kathleen Sebelius, she certainly can't be pegged as a Washington insider. However, she may be a little too cool (read noncombative) on the campaign trail and have a hard time putting on the brass knuckles.

This leaves former senators, current and former governors, and former cabinet officials. The gubernatorial ranks seem to be the most fertile grounds from which Obama can choose his running mate. They're not insiders, they have records of accomplishment, they don't threaten the balance of power in the Senate, and they have served in an executive capacity. Of all possible picks, governors probably do the least harm and the most good at the same time.

The 7-10's bold prediction: Virginia Governor Tim Kaine

(But don't be surprised if news breaks that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell was asked first.)

What are your predictions?


Ted Stevens and an Opportunity for McCain

Powerful Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska has been indicted for concealing gifts and services and making false statements. Even though he claimed to be surprised by this, he had been under investigation for many months. Sen. Stevens is well known for the funding he is able to secure for his state, including the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere."

On its face, this latest indictment couldn't have come at a worse time for Republicans who are still reeling from the 2006 midterm elections in which they were heavily punished for their ethical transgressions. Of course, Democrats were not without their ethical woes, but they paled in scope and number to Republicans, as is evidenced by Bob Ney, Duke Cunningham, Mark Foley, and Larry Craig. The Stevens indictment simply reminds voters of Republican corruption and makes Barack Obama's message of "change" and "new politics" a bit more resonant.

Veteran Democratic Senator Daniel Inouye defended Stevens and believed he was innocent. This is not surprising, seeing that both Inouye and Stevens are personal friends. To people outside of Washington, this simply comes across as sleazy Washington politicians protecting their own. This would be another advantage for Obama in that even though he is also a senator, he is not really seen as "Washington." This is a result of his short resume of federal service and Republican reminders that he was just a state senator in Springfield, Illinois, a few years ago.

Obama and congressional Democrats can easily use this indictment for fundraising and another example of why it's important to help elect more Democrats to stamp out the "culture of corruption" they ran against in 2006. And for disaffected voters, they may be more inclined to respond favorably to Obama's "I'm not part of them" image.

However, this news also presents a unique opportunity for John McCain. McCain now has a golden opportunity to burnish his maverick image and fiscal conservative credentials. McCain should be on the campaign trail everyday criticizing Stevens for his waste and lack of ethics. That would instantly grab media headlines because it would show that McCain is standing up to his own unpopular party. That would make McCain look more like an outsider, a reformer, a leader, and yes, an "agent of change."

Outrage from Barack Obama and Democrats is predictable. It's dog bites man. Democrats criticize Republicans all the time. The line between sincere outrage and mere partisan reflexes is blurry enough to blunt the potency of their criticisms.

Outrage from the Republican presidential nominee, however, would be a lot rarer. It's man bites dog. Republicans don't publicly criticize Republicans unless their names are Ron Paul or Tom Coburn.

In short, Ted Stevens is yet one more headache for Republicans, but a political gift for John McCain. For a candidate who is looking to get more out of the media and temporarily change the narrative from Iraq and the economy, this is a perfect opportunity for him should he be courageous enough to take it.


Lame Political Discourse: Part 4 (On Phony Sympathy)

At an intense sports event, partisan fans go to great lengths to show their allegiance to their team and ridicule their rivals. We paint our bodies. We wear jerseys. We try to intimidate our opponents or make them lose their concentration. We wave pennants. We camp out for tickets. We invent derogatory nicknames for our opponents. We scream at the top of our lungs. And we boo the referees when they make calls against our team.

But this all stops when a player gets hurt. We are no longer Yankees, Blue Devils, Cowboys, Red Sox, Canucks, or Aggies. We are people, and we care about each other. One awkward landing, one tough tackle, one intense collision, or one player who must be taken off the field on a stretcher makes us all remember what is truly important. It's not about points. It's not about wins and losses. It's not about securing home field advantage for the playoffs. It's about common human decency.

The news about Senator Ted Kennedy's malignant brain tumor reminded me of this sports analogy. It's tragic news, to be sure, but somehow I don't feel that the decency we show a wounded athlete is being expressed here. Sure, the words are there, but given the over-the-top rhetoric that has come to characterize contemporary politics, I can't help but wonder if at least some of these words are nothing but phony expressions of sympathy.

How many ambitious Massachusetts congressmen are looking at Kennedy's health as their long awaited opportunity to advance from the House to the Senate? Sure, they like Kennedy because he's one of the most famous lions of liberalism and wields a lot of political power. But he and John Kerry have kept Massachusetts' Senate seats off limits for more than 20 years, thus blocking other politicians' progress in the state.

How many Democrats are looking at Kennedy's health as their long awaited opportunity to get some new blood in their ranks? Many of these Democrats express adoration for Kennedy in public, but how many view him as a windbag in private? How much do Democrats (and Republicans) who have not served long in the Senate really care? Sure, they'll say they are saddened by his health because the political ramifications of failing to do so are too great. But is it really sincere?

How many Republicans are looking at Kennedy's health as their ticket to getting rid of their political nemesis? It is said that senators are generally collegial towards each other, but given the partisanship that has characterized the past 15 years or so, how many Republicans are thinking more in terms of political maneuvering rather than the senator's well-being? If some Democrats' expressions of sorrow may be feigned, what could reasonably be assumed of some Republicans'?

How many partisan political observers are looking at Kennedy's health as their ticket to getting rid of "the fat liberal who murdered his friend" 40 years ago? This is obviously a reference to the incident at Chappaquiddick in 1969. One common joke I've heard conservatives say is that they'd rather go hunting with Dick (Cheney) than driving with Ted (Kennedy). Any cursory glance at an online political forum mentioning him would reveal lots of bile and insults against him. How many of these people simply don't care about Kennedy's health even though they certainly know who he is? And even worse, how many of these people are actually rejoicing because of it?

I have no personal connection to Kennedy. I was born in 1977, long after the JFK/RFK assassinations, Vietnam, and the struggle for civil rights that he participated in. Kennedy is one of the better known senators and he seems to genuinely be concerned with his constituents. And because I live in South Carolina, I think more about Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint than Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. His health is obviously tragic, and I wish both him and his family the best.

I have no bone to pick with Kennedy. But some people do. How many people out there are reacting with apathy, phoniness, or glee? The same thing happened when Ronald Reagan died. And it will happen again when Jimmy Carter's time comes. How many of these people can express their sorrow with a straight face?

A part of me feels guilty for not having a little more faith in us as people. Not as Republicans. Not as Democrats. Not as conservatives or liberals. But as people. Can we really progress from talking about "our stupid president," "America-hating liberals," "terrorist-sympathizing Democrats," "heartless Republicans," "baby-eating abortionists," and "Bible-thumping wackos" to "our dear friend" and "our revered colleague" so easily?


The Immigration Bill: Compromised by Compromise?

So, it looks like the Senate has reached a compromise on immigration. In a nutshell, this bill would require illegal aliens to pay a hefty fine, create a new type of visa that would allow them to stay in the US legally, allow them to apply for permanent residency after eight years, and fortify the Border Patrol.

It seems like a practical solution, but there are going to be A LOT of angry voters out there because of this bill. I guess if you're being attacked by the left and the right, that means you've found a sufficient balance. But there are four competing constituencies that further complicate matters:

1. Liberals want to accommodate illegal aliens and give them more rights for humanistic reasons. Many illegal aliens come to America so they can make a better life for their families. Wages are often so low and working conditions are often so poor in their home countries that it makes working in America so much more attractive. Why should illegal aliens be penalized for trying to seek a better life here? And isn't the United States supposed to be a nation of immigrants? Does Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses have any meaning whatsoever?

2. Conservatives vehemently oppose illegal immigration because the fact that these aliens are in the United States illegally makes them lawbreakers who should not be entitled to any social services or federal or municipal benefits whatsoever. They believe these illegal aliens are a drain on local community resources that should be allocated to US citizens and legal immigrants. They equate legalizing their presence in America as amnesty, which is a non-starter for them. A nativist subset of the conservative wing also doesn't like the fact that these mostly brown people speak Spanish and eat pollo con arroz instead of pot roast. They fear that America's identity is at stake.

3. Opportunistic Democratic politicians sense an opportunity to cultivate millions of new potential Democratic voters. They remember what happened to former California Governor Pete Wilson. Gov. Wilson's crackdown on illegal immigration turned California into a reliably Democratic state because of its high Hispanic population that was enraged by Wilson's policies. Gov. Wilson also helped brand the Republican Party as the party that is not sympathetic to illegal immigrants. The Republican Party continues to struggle for support among minorities to this very day. Democrats don't want to make that same "mistake," so they want to portray themselves as "being on the side" of families who come to America to search for a better life.

4. Big business Republican politicians know who writes their campaign checks. Corporate America often relies on illegal immigrants because they provide a steady source of cheap, no-hassle labor. Why pay an American $15 an hour if a Mexican will do it for $10? Why bother hiring an American who is a member of a labor union and wants health insurance and retirement benefits if you can get a Guatemalan who just wants a salary? This keeps costs down and profits up, which makes business executives very, very happy. They know Republicans are their allies in Washington and will continue to fund their campaigns so long as these legislators keep their bread buttered.

This compromise bill seems to satisfy a little bit of each of these four groups' concerns. But I think there is a huge intensity gap separating the second group (conservatives) from the other three. Illegal immigration is one of those hot-button issues that can significantly drive up turnout, much like abortion and gun rights do. I'm not yet sure how this will play out nationally, but I will say this:

Because of this intensity gap, this compromise legislation may prove fatal for the political aspirations of two Republican senators in general: John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

John McCain is the most credible top tier Republican presidential candidate when it comes to his conservative record. However, he has been viewed with suspicion because of his membership in the "Gang of 14," campaign finance reform legislation, and the maverick streak he has exhibited in the past. Mitt Romney's recent "conversions" to conservatism are often derided, and Rudy Giuliani is obviously a moderate. Conservatives who didn't trust McCain before may view his support of this compromise bill as the final straw that turns them off from his campaign. Mike Huckabee and Fred Thompson may be the beneficiaries of McCain's possible implosion because of this issue. McCain's problem is that both independents and conservatives view him with suspicion. Unfortunately for McCain, conservatives are much more important for him because without conservative support, he cannot win the Republican presidential nomination. Period.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is often criticized by South Carolinians for not being conservative enough for their tastes. He was also a member of the Gang of 14, which didn't sit too well in this very red state. Senator Graham is up for reelection in 2008. Look for him to have to contend with a strong conservative challenger in the state's Republican primary. It is quite possible that he will not survive. South Carolina Democrats don't particularly like Senator Graham because even though he often talks tough about President Bush, he ultimately sides with Bush anyway. However, they are happy with the fact that he is not a hardcore conservative like Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma or Senator Sessions of Alabama. If such a Republican beats Senator Graham in the Republican primary, could this open up the door for a moderate Democratic challenger to win Lindsey Graham's Senate seat?

And finally, even though I'm more of a libertarian or a liberal when it comes to social issues (anti-censorship, supporter of gay rights, etc.), I am a staunch conservative when it comes to illegal immigration. My wife is not an American citizen. We had to go through a painstakingly rigorous, expensive, and time-consuming process in order to get her green card approved. We had to shell out hundreds of dollars in application fees, transportation expenses, and legal services--all of which were a part of the permanent residency application process. Check out some of the forums at Visa Journey and read some of the threads there to get an idea of what other international couples have to deal with in order to come to the United States legally. There are stressful interviews at far away embassies, long periods of waiting on the telephone only to hear an agent tell you they don't know anything about your immigration case, and even fees just to contact the embassy in certain cases. After all the work we had to do just to get my wife in the United States legally, it incenses me to know that someone can simply jump a fence or hide in the trunk of a car as it crosses a border checkpoint and still get hired on the other side and even receive government benefits in so-called sanctuary cities.

Having said that, I realize it is not practical to round up 10 million people and send them back to their countries of origin. So this compromise is probably the most pragmatic way of dealing with the problem. However, let it be known that there are millions and millions of other similarly angry voters out there who will severely penalize Republican legislators who sign onto this bill. Democrats probably won't be penalized as heavily because Iraq is where their voters' intensity lies. But Republicans should be particularly careful.

John McCain's poll numbers should be intriguing to watch. We could be witnessing a presidential flameout in the making.


The Legend of Mike Gravel

The most colorful figure in last week's Democratic presidential debate was former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel (official campaign site). From the very beginning he established himself as the unvarnished loose cannon who was not afraid to speak truth to power. Seeing that he really had nothing to lose, he came out with his guns a-blazing.

But did he actually hit any targets?

In my estimation, he actually did.

Let's be clear. Mike Gravel is not going to be the 2008 Democratic presidential nominee. However, he has already made a tremendous impact on the psychology of Democrats and Democratic legislators.

Let me explain. During the debate, Gravel fielded a question about how he would resolve the conflict. He said we should "get out" because "the Iraqis don't want us there, but we insist on staying!" He then said he would "make it a felony" for Bush to continue to prosecute this war and urged the other Democrats on stage to pass a law instead of a resolution to achieve this. After all, he reminded everyone, Bush said earlier that America was not pulling out of Iraq on his watch and that it would be a decision for "future presidents" to make.

That certainly got liberal antiwar Democrats fired up.

But then he went a step further. He said Pelosi didn't have to worry because she had the votes in the House of Representatives to keep passing bills ending the war. But for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), he said he should show some backbone and not worry about Republicans' threats of filibustering. Instead, he should schedule a cloture vote every day to get that bill passed. And if he did that while the Republicans continued to filibuster or Bush continued to veto this legislation, "it would be clear to everyone who was prolonging this war." (That's not an exact quote because I don't have the debate transcript with me, but that's the gist of what he said.)

And you know what? That's close to what the Democrats are going to do now. Even though Bush said he would veto the bill, the Democrats have said they will send him the bill anyway. Some Democrats have suggested they will send him the bill several times. I am not sure if they adopted this strategy before or after the debate, but at the very least, even if this idea did not come from Gravel himself, he still forcefully advocated this approach, which likely did not fall on deaf ears.

And by doing this, he showed the Democrats how to fight.

There's some debate about whether longshots should be allowed to participate in presidential debates because they often take precious time away from more viable candidates to express their positions. However, they can be beneficial in that they can throw more established candidates off script. In Gravel's case, it may behoove Democrats to keep him on the stage at the debates because he may be quite instructional to his colleagues in Washington and activists everywhere. Of course, Republicans will love to give Gravel as much exposure as possible because it would allow them to tar all Democrats as "far left lunatics." But I think most responsible voters see Gravel as a fringe candidate based on his lack of decorum alone.

National Journal was really miffed by his "rudeness" and dropped him from their biweekly race rankings. I think that's a mistake. My view is that knowledge is everywhere. You just have to know how to separate the wheat from the chaff. Even if Gravel comes across as something less than what is commonly considered senatorial or presidential, his advice about resolving the Iraq impasse suggests to me that people are giving him far less credit than he deserves.

Update: According to Parker (check the comments to this post), John Edwards advocated the exact same approach that Mike Gravel mentioned in the debate. Again, according to Parker, John Edwards stated this on NPR "about a month ago." If John Edwards owns this strategy, then Mike Gravel may have further validated it. At the very least, this is very favorable for John Edwards and really puts Barack Obama on the spot.


The Lieberman Fallout: Part 2

A few days ago I posted a commentary about Joe Lieberman expressing my disapproval of his purported threatening to caucus with Republicans over disagreements with Democrats about funding the military campaign in Iraq. Party-switching alone isn't what I disapproved of; it was the fact that he could so easily consider this so soon after the last election when he gave no hint to the voters that he would take this course of action. And surely, Lieberman was well aware of the anti-war wing of the Democratic party before the elections. And surely he knew those elements would want to defund the war if they had the power of the majority. So Lieberman came across as being interested in nothing more than his own political survival and influence without any regard for his constituents in Connecticut.

Having said that, I have been scouring various news sources and found a few articles that follow-up on his original threats.

For starters, after reading these articles carefully, Lieberman didn't explicitly threaten to caucus with the Republicans over funding. However, he did acknowledge there was a "remote possibility" that this could happen, which essentially leaves the door open. Perhaps this is his way of preventing the Democratic majority from veering too far to the left. But have you heard any stories of moderate Republicans acknowledging a "remote possibility" of caucusing with the Democrats over this very same issue?

Anyway, according to Congressional Quarterly:

...Lieberman would not be able to instantly hand over the steering wheel to the GOP. He could, however, bring Senate business to a screaming halt.

Unlike 2001 — when then-Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont renounced the Republican Party and effectively broke a 50-50 tie in favor of the Democrats — the so-called organizing resolution that currently governs the Senate contains no provision for switching control if the party in power loses its majority.

The reason why such a provision existed in 2001 was because of Vice President Al Gore. Even though the Senate was split 50-50 after the 2000 election, Al Gore still had the ability to cast the tiebreaking vote as president of the Senate. The new Republican senators were sworn in during the first week of January, but Al Gore was still the vice president until Inauguration Day, roughly two weeks later. So until Inauguration Day, Dick Cheney was irrelevant. Of course, after Cheney was sworn in, the Republican VP could cast the tiebreaking vote, thus effectively giving the Republicans control of the chamber. To account for the change in control resulting from Gore's exit from office and Cheney's entrance, this provision was created as a compromise.

However, in 2006, the Senate switched from a 55-45 Republican majority to a 51-49 Democratic one. Dick Cheney's tiebreaking vote is irrelevant in this scenario, which is why no similar compromise provision was created. So even if Lieberman became a Republican or an "Independent Republican," the Senate rules would still allow for Democratic control until the next congress convenes in 2009 even if the Democrats held a 50-50 minority by virtue of Dick Cheney's tiebreaking vote.

Understandably, Republicans would want to rewrite the Senate rules to allow them to control the chamber in light of their new "majority." However, they would need the consent of the current majority (e.g., Democrats) in order to proceed with any rules changes. But do you honestly think the new Democratic majority is eager to relinquish its power? Guess again.

A 50-50 Senate would virtually be paralyzed. Actually, even the current 51-49 Senate can't get much done either. Neither political party can get much done without the consent of a sizeable number of members of the other party, regardless of who's in control. The most power the bare Democratic majority has now comes in the form of committee chairmanships, the ability to call for hearings, and the ability to set the Senate agenda. Legislatively, Democrats are almost paralyzed because of the Republican filibuster. And should Lieberman defect, Republicans could employ all sorts of parliamentary maneuvers until the rules are changed allowing them to reclaim the gavels.

Republicans are in a tough spot too though. If they filibuster too much, they will be branded as obstructionists. This is especially true now because they have already received negative press for "blocking" the debate on the troop surge. Seeing that Republicans are already on the wrong side of public opinion regarding the war, being seen as preventing ways to change it strikes me as political suicide. And if they were to actually reclaim control, they would have to avoid being remiss in their oversight responsibilities like the last Republican Senate was. Protecting Bush at the expense of changing and improving Iraq policy via aggressive oversight would be disastrous in 2008 and could potentially drag down the GOP presidential nominee. My sense is that the GOP was rebuked in 2006 and giving the voters two more years of the same ineffectiveness would be foolish. But the Republican Senate would understandably not be too keen on embarrassing Bush. So their hands would be tied as well.

As for Lieberman, were he to defect to the Republican Party, he would wield considerably less power than he does now because he would lose his committee chairmanship (at least until the Senate rules were changed). In turn, Democrats would then become less beholden to him. And the Democrats are almost certain to pick up seats in 2008, thus reducing Lieberman's influence to nothingness, regardless of which party he chooses to caucus with.

This makes me understand Lieberman's actions a bit more. In such a closely divided Senate, nobody really has any power. Lieberman is not a member of the Big Four (Reid, McConnell, Durbin, and Lott), but he does have more potential power in that he can almost single-handedly grind the Senate to a screeching halt. His own actions have important consequences that would directly impact the Senate until 2008. However, they may impact the Iraq debate and the troops fighting there for far longer than that.

Copyright 2007-2008 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.