TCS Daily

Meet Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Kyoto

By Nick Schulz - October 26, 2001 12:00 AM

Back when Sen. Jim Jeffords bolted the Republican Party and handed the office of Senate Majority Leader to Tom Daschle, his stated justification for leaving was an unyielding conservatism that had taken hold of the GOP. He said this made it impossible for those in the party holding dissenting views to exert any influence.

"In the past," the folksy Vermonter said, "...the various wings of the Republican Party in Congress have had some freedom to argue and ultimately to shape the party's agenda."

So what, then, is Sen. Jeffords to make of the recent debate-squelching action taken by Senate Majority Leader Daschle? Two weeks ago, Sen. Daschle ordered his Democratic colleague, Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, the head of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to withdraw from consideration an energy bill that was heading to a vote.

The bill had been several months in the works and was enjoying growing bipartisan support. Democratic committee members Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana had indicated they would support the measure.

But Sen. Daschle forced the withdrawal over a proposal in the bill that called for, among many other things, drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

Not surprisingly, an assortment of green groups applauded the move, and The New York Times praised the "great lengths" Sen. Daschle went to in order to "prevent his colleagues" from moving ahead with the energy bill.

The Times editorialized that Sen. Daschle was "fearful that a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats" would be successful in pushing the bill out of committee to be voted upon by the full Senate in the light of day.

Conservative Democrats? Sen. Akaka is among the most reliably liberal members of the Senate, at times earning an American Conservative Union rating of "0" on a scale of 0-100.

Sen. Daschle's move to kill consideration of the bill was power politics, pure and simple. What explains Jeffords' silence on Daschle's move? The Majority Leader is helping push an alternative energy bill that is sponsored by Sen. Jeffords. The bill incorporates many of the costliest elements of the Kyoto protocol designed to drastically reduce energy use such as reducing CO2 emissions to 1990 levels.

It's certainly the Majority Leader's prerogative to kill a bill he doesn't like and that might embarrass many of his caucus members who oppose domestic oil development even as American soldiers are fighting a war against terrorism in oil-rich central Asia. But his action is nothing if not a curb on the "freedom to argue" that Sen. Jeffords cited when, in his "Declaration of Independence," he chastised Republicans for silencing dissent. Sens. Akaka, Landrieu, and other Democrats who support increasing domestic oil supplies might wonder where that freedom is today.

TCS Daily Archives