Unlike GOP House members who have the advantage of running for reelection in carefully gerrymandered districts, members of the U.S. Senate have to run for reelection on a statewide basis and hence find pandering to the spittle flecked Christofascists and modern day descendants of the KKK much more dangerous to their reelection chances. The result, thankfully, is that infighting is increasing among lunatic far right senators and those who have to embrace moderation. A piece in Talking Points Memo looks at the unfolding drama. Here are highlights:
Whether it’s immigration reform, the budget, or President Obama’s nominees, a faction of more moderate Republican senators are increasingly splitting from both their leadership and the tea party and partnering with Democrats on key issues.
The growing signs of division are remarkable after years of exceptional Senate GOP unity under the reign of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), during which minority use of the filibuster to thwart governance has soared to unprecedented heights.
This week, large numbers of Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), broke with McConnell and voted with Democrats to secure the confirmation of controversial Obama nominees to the Labor Department, Environmental Protection Agency and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In all eight cloture and confirmation votes, McConnell voted “no.”
The most controversial nominee so far, Tom Perez for labor secretary, overcame a GOP filibuster by the thinnest of margins, 60-40. The six Republicans who joined Democrats in his favor, whom Democrats will look to for cooperation on other matters, were Sens. McCain, Bob Corker (TN), Lamar Alexander (TN), Susan Collins (ME), Mark Kirk (IL) and Lisa Murkowski (AK).
On immigration, 14 Republicans joined every Democrat in voting to comprehensively overhaul the system and offer unauthorized immigrants a path to citizenship.
On the budget, numerous Republican senators are urging conservative colleagues to stop blocking conference negotiations with the House, and are pushing for a long-term budget agreement with Democrats that includes new revenues — anathema to the tea party.
Complicating matters for leadership is that McConnell and his No. 2, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), are both unpopular at home and face reelection next year. As a result, they’re working to ward off primary challengers by voting against Democratic initiatives as much as possible and avoiding the appearance of working with President Obama. That makes it harder for them to balance the concerns of rank and file members, who watched their party get crushed in a second consecutive presidential election and aren’t eager to spend another four years obstructing.
But it remains to be seen whether the divisions will usher in a new era of Senate cooperation, as McCain strikes a conciliatory posture with his 2008 rival on upcoming battles involving the debt ceiling and nominees to the influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.