Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The DeMint Conference

I don't want to make too much of this -- it's likely that at least a few incoming Republicans will be on the moderate side -- but take a look at what's happening to the GOP conference.  I'm working from Simon Jackman's ranking of Senators by ideology based on their voting records....going back to the beginning of the (current) 111th Senate, here's the score, working from the least conservative Republican.

1.  Collins
2.  Snowe
3.  Specter (ranked based on votes as a Republican): party-switched, started voting as a mainstream Dem, defeated in the primary.
4.  Voinovich: retiring
5.  Murkowski: probably defeated in her primary.
6.  Bond: retiring.
7.  Lugar
8.  Mel Martinez: resigned.
9.  Cochran
10. Alexander
11. Gregg: retiring
12. Bennett: defeated in primary.

By the way, LeMieux (retiring) is next after Bennett; on the other hand, Scott Brown, who isn't going anywhere for a while, fits in between Voinovich and Murkowski.  Still, that means that the next Republican down (Hatch) moves from 13th most conservative to 7th, pending the addition of any new moderates. 

Of course, if the GOP does win a landslide in November, then a few moderates will probably be elected as well: Fiorina in California would I assume be to the left of Hatch.  I'm not sure who else; perhaps Ayotte in New Hampshire?  And I have no idea how McMahon in Connecticut would vote in the unlikely event that she wins -- plus, it wouldn't be a shocker if one or more other newcomer turns out to be in the Alexander/Hatch wing, rather than the DeMint/Coburn wing.  Still, seven (with Murkowski) of the twelve least conservative Republicans from the beginning of the 111st Senate will be gone, and unless Vitter or Burr loses only two from the rest of the conference are on their way out -- Bunning and Brownback.


  1. 6 years of a do-nothing, grand-standing Congress is just what the U.S. needs right now :/. Well, at least their attempts to outlaw Islam and foreigners will be entertaining to watch.

  2. I think a few of them might be a bit more willing to work than it seems. Portman and Blount are hardly moderates, but old Congressional hands well-used to making deals. Kirk (if he wins)will be moderate as he won't feel the need to mollify his right flank. Castle might well supplant Snowe and Collins as Obama's most get-able vote. I don't think we know how much of an ass Hoeven will be, either.

    Moreover, I think the political calculus changes just a bit with Republicans in the majority. I don't think it's enough for them to make sure as little as possibly passes as painfully as possible. If things still suck, it's not just Obama's failure (though it's more his than anyone's), it'll be theirs, too.

    I feel like Snowe, Collins, et al probably aren't wiling to play the "Obstruct EVERYTHING" game forever, especially if Obama moves toward deficit reduction, tax reform, education or immigration, things they have some ideological overlap on.

  3. Ah, I forgot about Castle, who will certainly be right around Snowe & Collins. And good calls on the other you mention. The flip side, of course, is that they will have Bennett, Specter, and (probably?) Murkowski on their minds, so we'll have to see how much that constrains them. But you're right -- depending on who wins, it is possible that it'll be a lot less doctrinaire than my post suggested.

  4. But you're right -- depending on who wins, it is possible that it'll be a lot less doctrinaire than my post suggested.

    It will not only be worse than you think, it will be worse than you imagine. Prepare for atavism on a massive scale.

    A royalist party in a parliament has no real interest in increasing its share of votes in that body, except to better obstruct, never mind cooperating with the small-r republican parties in governing.

    A royalist party's purpose for being is to shut the republic's Parliament down, or at least neuter it, until the Monarch is restored, the Court can go back to jockeying for place and favor -- crown monopolies and such -- and Parliament returns to its rightful, circumscribed role -- applauding the monarch, and voting him money for his wars.

    That's the post-2012 future -- a nuclear-armed version of Henry VIII's England.

  5. There's something alternately hilarious and frightening about a discussion that has Orrin Hatch representing the left wing of the Republican party. Orrin Hatch? Really? Well, yes, in today's world Orrin Hatch is a liberal Republican.

  6. "The flip side, of course, is that they will have Bennett, Specter, and (probably?) Murkowski on their minds, so we'll have to see how much that constrains them."

    Very true. But I wonder if maybe the six-year term will insulate them some. I don't know, I'd really like to see if there's any research on Senators genuinely being less "political" in the first half of their terms, but intuitively, it seems like Baucus and Nelson weren't really worried about pissing off their base since they're not up until 2012-14. And Freshmen like Hagan and Begich kept their mouths shut on HCR, even though that would be an unpopular vote in an immediate general election. Of course, that's all on the Democratic side, but Democratic activists have done notable headhunting themselves in recent years.

  7. I'm just trying to think this through.

    Scenario #1---Senate Republicans win big and take back control of the chamber.

    That means some centrist Republicans will get elected. Even so, based on the names listed above, the caucus would likely be more conservative than it is now.

    Also, winning back the Senate would (with some validity) be taken as vindication of McConnell's "party of no" strategy.

    And, for the most part, Republicans have not put together a governing agenda (other than opposition to whatever Obama proposes/does).

    Conclusion---we'd likely have a Republican majority in the Senate that's more right-wing than the current Republican caucus, and that has little or no incentive to govern seriously.

    Scenario #2---Senate Republicans gain a few (2-5?)seats.

    We'd have a more right-wing Republican caucus. Depending on where the wins and losses were, perhaps a significantly more right-wing caucus (e.g., Paul, Angle, maybe Miller in Alaska).

    Because they gained seats, McConnell's "party of no" strategy is again vindicated.

    Conclusion---the combination of those two factors could make the current session's use of the filibuster seem temperate.

    Scenario #3---Little or no change in the Senate (say, from +2 Dems to +1 or +2 Reps).

    Again, based on the information above, the Republican caucus is likely to become more conservative and, depending on who gets elected (e.g., Paul), more obstructionist.

    On the other hand, if the election returns are seen as a repudiation of McConnell's strategy (and of extreme right-wing challengers), maybe Collins, Snowe, Lugar, Cochran and Alexander form a centrist bloc and create room to set a (centrist) agenda with the Democrats for the next two years. (Doubtful but possible.)

    Conclusion: Republicans still unlikely to take governing seriously (e.g., ratifying START treaty), but the "party of no" strategy may get increasingly difficult to sustain (due to internal divisions and external opposition).

    Wild Card Scenario---Democrats retain control of the Senate (by a 1-9 seat margin) and agree on rules reform to limit the use of holds and the filibuster.

    Conclusion---In that (unlikely) case, Obama stands a chance of having years 3 & 4 be almost as productive as years 1 & 2 of his term.

    Of course, if Republicans retake the House (a more likely scenario)...I wouldn't be surprised to see impeachment hearings.

    Your thoughts?

  8. I think you mean to write: "that means that the next Republican down (Hatch) moves from 13th most LIBERAL to 7th"


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