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Gayle in MD
04-07-2007, 06:48 PM
April 7, 2007
Democrats’ Rise Has Pluses, Say G.O.P. Centrists
By RAYMOND HERNANDEZ
WASHINGTON, April 6 — If the Democratic ascendance on Capitol Hill was supposed to usher in dark days for Republicans, it is hard to tell from talking to moderate ones like Mike Ferguson, who represents a suburban district in central New Jersey.

As the new Democrat-led House rushed to complete its business before adjourning for spring break this week, Representative Ferguson was marveling at the many bills that had been passed in Congress’s first 100 days, including one that would make it easier for unions to organize and another that would increase the minimum wage.

“Under the Republican majority, those bills would have never gotten to the floor,” he explained before heading back to his district. “Now they have been brought to the floor, and I’ve voted for them.”

Mr. Ferguson’s enthusiasm captures a peculiar political reality in the Capitol: many Republicans from swing districts in the Northeast are finding that life under Democratic rule has its advantages.

During the 12 years that Republicans controlled the House, moderate Republicans were the stepchildren of their party, expected to vote with their conservative leadership on crucial issues, even if it meant taking positions that could anger centrist voters back home.

In fact, the Democrats made some of their deepest inroads last year in the Northeast. A total of 10 Republican incumbents in the House were defeated in four states — New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania — where the challengers aggressively tried to tie the incumbents to President Bush and his conservative allies on the Hill.

Now, with those losses still fresh in their minds, Republican moderates remaining in the House are vowing to pursue their centrist positions more assertively, even if it means endorsing Democratic initiatives.

And the new Republican House leadership, concerned about losing even more seats in 2008, appears to be showing a pragmatic streak by allowing moderates to stray more freely from the party fold.

“If there’s a good idea, we should work to get it done, regardless of whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat who came up with the idea,” said Mr. Ferguson, who was re-elected last year with just 49.5 percent of the vote.

Since taking control of the House in January, Democrats have pushed through bills that would raise the federal minimum wage, overturn President Bush’s restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, cut interest rates on college loans and implement Sept. 11 commission security recommendations.

Many moderate Republicans joined the Democrats in supporting those measures, including Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, who won his own re-election campaign with 51 percent of the vote.

“Democrats basically grabbed the center and ran with it politically,” Mr. Shays said, adding that he would continue working with the Democrats provided they did not veer from the political center.

Representative Peter T. King, a Republican from Long Island who regularly sides with conservative Republicans on abortion and immigration issues, said there were “definitely positives” in the direction in which Democrats had taken the House.

“For a pro-labor Republican like me, it’s been very beneficial,” he said.

In a measure of how competitive the Northeast could be next year, White House political strategists have put together a list of vulnerable House Republicans that includes five from the region: Mr. Shays, Mr. Ferguson, Representatives John Randy Kuhl Jr. from New York’s Southern Tier, James T. Walsh from the Syracuse region and Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania.

The list was obtained and circulated by Congressional Democrats, who are making plans to single out Northeastern Republicans for defeat in 2008, in the hopes of completing what many in their party see as an inevitable Democratic realignment in the region.

In Mr. Walsh’s 25th Congressional District, for example, Dan Maffei, a Democrat who came within about 3,400 votes of defeating Mr. Walsh, is planning to run again next year and has been meeting with party leaders and donors in Albany and Washington.

And in the neighboring 29th Congressional District, Eric Massa, a Democrat, has told party leaders in Washington that he plans to challenge Mr. Kuhl, who defeated him last November with just 52 percent of the vote.

In a recent interview, Mr. Maffei argued that his prospects of winning in a Democratic state like New York were greatly improved in 2008 because the presidential election would draw thousands of additional voters to the polls, most of them Democrats.

“The climate of a presidential year will carry us,” said Mr. Maffei, who announced his candidacy on Friday.

Yet, paradoxically, the agenda that House Democratic leaders have been advancing over the last few weeks may actually give moderate Republicans political cover — certainly more than when conservative leaders ran the House.

In Mr. Walsh’s case, he has already sided with Democrats on several major pieces of legislation, including a nonbinding resolution opposing President Bush’s call for sending additional troops to Baghdad.

Mr. Walsh’s assistants say the votes reflect a centrist point of view that Mr. Walsh has held for years, but Mr. Maffei has described Mr. Walsh’s votes as opportunistic.

“It has nothing to do with ideology,” Mr. Maffei said. “It’s purely political.”

The House’s Republican moderates are a relatively cohesive bunch of about 30 lawmakers who meet as a caucus (called the Tuesday Group) each week to discuss issues like health care and jobs.

Recently, eight members of the group called on President Bush and Democratic leaders on the Hill to make climate change a top environmental issue this session. Increasingly, moderate Republicans have been reaching across the political aisle without fear of retribution from their own leaders.

The situation is a far cry from previous Congresses, when the Republican leadership squelched internal divisions and passed bill after bill on party-line votes, including budget cuts to popular programs. The leadership also pushed ideologically freighted legislation that had little chance of becoming law.

Last summer, for example, the Republican House leadership embarked on a legislative drive to highlight conservative causes like gun rights and new abortion restrictions. The effort was aimed at rallying conservative voters in advance of the fall elections. But moderates complained that it threatened their re-election prospects.

This is not to say that the Republican leaders are completely passive these days. They managed to hold their party together in opposition to a recent Democratic proposal to bring most American combat troops home from Iraq next year. The proposal passed on a vote of 218 to 212, with all but two Republicans opposing it. All of the Northeastern moderates voted against the measure.

But by and large, Mr. Shays said, leaders of his party are giving members greater leeway to pursue divergent views more assertively.

“You don’t have a Tom DeLay coming in with an ideology,” he said, referring to the former Republican majority leader whose tight control over rank-and-file members of the House earned him the nickname the Hammer.

“They’re picking their battles,” Mr. Shays continued. “Leaders are not trying to push their own individual agenda or their own individual ideology.”

Mr. Walsh said that part of the reason Republican leaders had loosened their grip was that they no longer had the burden of producing the 218-vote majority needed to govern in the House.

“When you are in the majority, you have to produce votes; so there’s tremendous pressure,” he said. “That’s not the case today. It’s a very different environment.”

But Mr. King said Republican House leaders had another reason for going easy on members.

“They don’t want to lose seats,” he said. “They’re not pushing members to take suicidal votes or take a bullet for the team.”

Sid_Vicious
04-07-2007, 11:10 PM
Does the phrase "Like rats on a sinking ship" hit anyone else but me about now? :-) sid

pooltchr
04-08-2007, 06:47 AM
If Mr Ferguson supported the increase in minimum wage, and a bill to make it easier for unions to organize, he may be a Republican, but certainly not a conservative.

Whichever party is in the minority has no choice but to "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer".
Steve

Gayle in MD
04-08-2007, 04:32 PM
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Anyway you slice it, it's a good thing when you see more cooperation across the isle.

Tom Delay ran his party like the mafia. The best thing that could have happened was when he stepped down...but it was way too late for the Republicans. As the violence rages on in Iraq, and Bush continues to let poor troops die, for the sake of his legacy, those Republicans who stand with him will be quite vulnerable come election time.

Nixon, did the same damn thing, left them to die in Vietnam, long after he knew he would have to withdraw, and that the war was not winnable.

Gayle in Md.

Gayle in MD
04-08-2007, 04:36 PM
[ QUOTE ]
If Mr Ferguson supported the increase in minimum wage, and a bill to make it easier for unions to organize, he may be a Republican, but certainly not a conservative.
<hr /></blockquote>

<font color="red">Very true, conservatives are never for the common man, or for those who are trying to break out of poverty, and can't make a decent enough living to feed their kids. </font color>

Gayle in Md.

eg8r
04-08-2007, 08:28 PM
I love this quote from the original post... [ QUOTE ]
As the new Democrat-led House rushed to complete its business before adjourning for spring break this week, Representative Ferguson was marveling at the many bills that had been passed in Congress’s first 100 days, including one that would make it easier for unions to organize and another that would increase the minimum wage. <hr /></blockquote> LOL, it is funny that I read this after mobs dumb post about Chinese taking the jobs away from the Michigan kids who are getting iPods. The left in Congress and certainly the ones on this board are too dumb to notice they are the reason the jobs are going over seas.

eg8r