November 9, 2002
The Nov. 5 elections provided a big boost to Republicans, but the nation also stands to benefit from GOP control of the Senate. Now, the GOP, if they're up to the task, can at least steer legislation to a vote by the full Senate.
Particularly important will be President George W. Bush's judicial appointees, who no longer can be blocked by a few liberal Democrats on the Judiciary Committee. Nor will they be rejected because they hold values generally viewed as traditionally American.
The record of Democrats in Congress so far this year has been dismal. In the Senate, "dismal" would be an improvement. For the Democrat-controlled Senate under Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., was ineffectual, and at times downright harmful.
With the halfhearted support of Demo doves, Congress did approve a resolution authorizing President Bush to use force in Iraq. That's because relieved Democrats wanted to get the national security issue out of the public spotlight before the November elections.
But bipartisanship was nowhere to be seen on economic issues. The Democrats were obstructionists on almost every measure that had a real chance to help the wobbly economy.
Daschle set the tone in January, when he talked down the effect of Sept. 11, and with a straight face claimed that the president's tax cuts "probably made the recession worse." This, in spite of the fact that the tax cuts are so backend-loaded their full benefits won't be realized for years.
Daschle and company have, of course, opposed additional measures to relieve the taxpayers' burden and stimulate the economy.
Obstructionism wasn't limited to economic stimulus measures. Democrats dragged their feet and dawdled on legislation to establish a new Department of Homeland Security. Daschle unabashedly held homeland security legislation hostage, in an effort to deny President Bush the operating flexibility opposed by public employee unions.
Daschle also blocked the Terrorism Protection Act (H.R. 3210), which would have provided government guarantees for insurance benefits covering terrorist's attacks. The bill would have had a settling effect on nervous businesses, and could have helped boost the economy.
On domestic energy development, the Daschle forces scuttled efforts to pass a sensible plan for decreasing our dependence on imported oil. The House passed a fairly comprehensive energy bill (HR 4), but Mr. Daschle personally killed the measure by removing it from Senate consideration.
A worthless bill was then sent to a House-Senate conference committee, where it was expected to die from neglect.
Daschle's dismal dealings touched all Senate actions on social and judicial issues. Daschle was successful in keeping human cloning legal in this country. He did it by promising, and delaying, any meaningful vote to ban cloning of humans. A ban that passed the House by a large margin.
Daschle also prevented Senate action on a partial birth abortion ban passed by the House, and on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Daschle used his position as majority leader to sidetrack or derail any legislation that went against the pro-abortion agendas of liberals such as Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.
That same devotion to the liberal cause led Daschle to allow the liberal-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee to trash and reject a number of President Bush's judicial nominees. Two of the rejected nominees for the Circuit Court of Appeals were among the strongest candidates ever sent to the Senate.
But liberals on the Judiciary Committee rejected Thomas Pickering of Mississippi and Patricia Owens of Texas because both held beliefs that until recently were considered "traditional American values."
Both received strong ratings from the American Bar Association. And both would have won quick approval in a vote by the full senate. But Daschle let a handful of liberals frustrate the Senate's will, and trample on the intent of the Constitution.
Perhaps worse was Daschle's refusal to let a judicial nominee from South Carolina even be considered, reneging on a promise to Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C. Thurmond took the Senate floor to criticize Daschle for lying to him. But what's a lie or two in a Senate that thought perjury by a president was acceptable?
Daschle often made his own rules as Majority Leader. He and his enablers have not served the Senate or the country well. They failed miserably in conducting the nation's business in a reputable and honorable way. They accomplished little and have done considerable harm.
Previously, the Senate had far too many members of the "Daschle kind." The nation should give thanks that their numbers got reduced on Election Day.