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May 25, 2005
The Arrogant Regency

Tony Blankley writes today in the Washington Times that the new cabal of fourteen so-called centrists in the Senate represent a real threat to the traditional workings of Constitutional government. The bipartisan group resembles a regency, Blankley argues, and one that threatens to take over the entire business of the Senate:

Well, it would seem that the Senate has been placed in to receivership by 14 self-appointed trustees, several of whom are among the Senate's most wanton exhibitionists. Some of these ladies and gentlemen can be seen almost daily preening in front of television cameras confessing their moral superiority over their colleagues by virtue of their lack of firm convictions and their unwillingness to be team players. ...

Let no one assume that this little assemblage of selfless senators will limit the reach of their writ to the matter of judicial appointments. As if one couldn't guess, on Monday night Sen. Lindsey Graham the Tom Sawyer of the Senate looking all twinkly eyed and mischievous into the television camera, promised that the wonderful 14 would soon be announcing their plan to reform Social Security. Tomorrow the World!

So begins the Regency Period of the Senate. As long as these fourteen stick together, nothing can pass the Senate.

This is a failure of leadership. Not on Harry Reid's part; this arrangement suits Reid well, as he was not about to see much of his agenda get through the Senate regardless. No, this falls squarely on the shoulders of Bill Frist, who obviously lacks the capacity to instill party discipline on his fractious caucus. Had Tom DeLay, for all his flaws, been in charge of the Senate, this filibuster debate would have taken place in January, and he would have won it. And of the seven Senators who have now defied their party leadership, how many would have stood up to DeLay in a similar manner? Probably only McCain, and he would have been much more careful in doing so.

Now we have a situation where our hard-fought majority has completely dissipated, to be replaced by a board of trustees that have arrogated leadership to themselves without even consulting the members of their caucuses, especially those in the GOP. And as Blankley points out, they have no intention of giving up that power as long as they can stay united. They intend on delivering Lindsay Graham's Social Security package and forcing it down the Senate's throat, complete with tax increases and an abandonment of privatization and ownership of one's retirement funds, despite a similar system for Congressmen and Senators that far outperforms Social Security. What other deals have they cut in secret, back-room negotiations? We will soon find out.

The Republican caucus needs to decide whether they will elect their own leaders or get led around by the nose by their so-called "maverick" members the rest of the session. It would help if the Republicans would elect a real leader, one who can instill party discipline that carries meaningful consequences to those who try to create little star chambers instead of debating and deciding openly about policy and procedure. Until they do, Not One Dime goes to the NRSC.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 25, 2005 7:00 AM

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