The Magazine

An Unusually Effective Minority

Bush and the congressional GOP embarrass the Democrats.

Jul 30, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 43 • By FRED BARNES
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Not only did the president threaten a veto, but Senate Republicans also said they would prevent the bill from going to a House-Senate conference. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is famous for inventing the tactic of blocking a bill by filibustering the naming of Senate conferees. Desperate to claim an achievement, Reid finally dropped the TSA veto-bait from the bill, which was then quickly approved.

Bush and Republicans have formed a kind of mutual encouragement society. On spending bills, House Republicans organized enough votes to ensure that Bush vetoes of spending bills would be sustained. And the president has promised to veto all of them except the appropriations for veterans.

Democratic hopes for a breakthrough now rest with the bills to expand the S-chip health care program and to provide a bigger subsidy for student loans. House Republicans believe they have the votes to sustain a veto of the S-chip bill, which provides for ten years of health coverage but only five years of funding. (This means a large tax hike would be required after five years.) As for student loans, Bush is mulling a veto.

A reflection of Democratic disarray occurred last week after Democratic senator Ken Salazar of Colorado proposed an amendment to the higher education bill opposing a Libby pardon. It needed 60 votes to pass, but it got only 47. Forty-nine senators voted against it.

McConnell was ready with a stinging response: an amendment attacking President Clinton for his pardons as he left office in 2001, including at least one linked to his wife, New York senator Hillary Clinton. Before the clerk could read the McConnell amendment, Senator Chuck Schumer, her New York colleague, spoke to Clinton and she hastily left the Senate floor.

After the reading, Reid halted proceedings for a quorum call, returning 15 minutes later with a deal. He'd "vitiate" the Libby vote, invoking a rare procedure to erase a roll call vote from Senate records, in exchange for McConnell's agreement to withdraw his amendment. McConnell agreed, and the vote was expunged, but not before Reid and Democrats were embarrassed one more time.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.