Monday, May 23, 2005

Who Will Decide?

I mentioned earlier that there are three types of GOP senators (moderates, traditionalists and mavericks) who are negotiating a possible resolution to the filibuster impasse. Below is a brief description of each group.

The Moderates - Snowe, Collins, Chaffee, DeWine - These are mostly Northeasterners who probably aren't fully accepted in the caucus anyway because of their less conservative views. Most are uncomfortable with the continuing rightward direction that the GOP is heading and have made their own attempts to distinguish themselves locally from the national party. They also realize that their constituents will be uncomfortable with the Democrats being unable to have some type of check on the Republican power. Chaffee has already stated his position against, with Snowe and Collins assumed to be against as well. (Collins, however, is notoriously weak kneed, so she may crumble if put under enough pressure.) DeWine will probably fall in line, but it appears that he would prefer a compromise.

The Traditionalists - Warner, Specter, Lugar, Bennett, Roberts - These are the Senate elders who realize that this rule change will not be done in a vacuum, and remember what it was like to be in the minority. These five truly love the Senate and value it as an institution. But they are also the most susceptible to party pressure, since they have coveted chairmanships. My guess is that if truly given the freedom to do so they would all vote against, but tomorrow I think that Warner will be the only nay vote. (If Specter votes nay, expect the right-wing advocates to go crazy and remove him from his Judiciary Committee chairmanship.)

[UPDATE - I was told that Bennett and Roberts gave strong speeches on the Senate floor supporting the nuclear option today.]

The Mavericks - McCain, Hagel, Graham - Although all three are rock ribbed conservatives, they do not always hew the party line. All three have shown a willingness to work with Democrats and appear to believe that the Senate should try to work together, regardless of party affiliation. However, all three also have Presidential ambitions, and voting against the nuclear option would stain them with a scarlet letter in a GOP primary. McCain has already stated his position against, but he is already bright red from all of his other scarlet letters and doesn't care, Hagel wants to run in 2008, so I think he will stay in line. Graham could be a wild card, but I wouldn't expect him to be the deciding vote against his party.

In private, I think most would vote against Frist. In public, I only see 5 (McCain, Chaffee, Snowe, Collins and Warner) doing so. Democrats need to find one more vote. How they get that vote may very well depend on which camp their target sits.