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Thread: Senate Setbacks Test Frist's Influence

  1. #1

    Senate Setbacks Test Frist's Influence

    Senate Setbacks Test Frist's Influence
    Bush Has Given Difficult Tasks to Him, Analysts Say
    By Charles Babington
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, May 29, 2005; Page A05

    For someone with the lofty title of Senate majority leader, Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has had a terrible week. Last Monday, a curious mix of 14 senators took control of the judicial filibuster issue and crafted a compromise that left Frist grumbling from the outside. On Thursday, he stood glumly on the Senate floor as his party failed to pick up the half-dozen Democrats it needed to end debate on John R. Bolton's nomination to be U.N. ambassador.

    The four-day stretch was so dismal that a Los Angeles Times editorial headlined "The Frist Problem" suggested he quit his post if he really wants to run for president in 2008, as many expect.

    Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, with eight years' experience before taking the post, lacks the GOP numbers to prevent Democratic filibusters. He was not among senators who brokered the compromise on judicial nominees. (By Lawrence Jackson -- Associated Press)

    Even his fans have often said that Frist's knack for running the Senate and passing tough bills falls short of the skills displayed by predecessors Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.). Compounding his problems recently, some say, are the unyielding demands of a person generally seen as Frist's greatest political benefactor: President Bush.

    No one did more than Bush to help Frist, a heart surgeon from Tennessee, become majority leader after Lott praised a segregationist presidential campaign in December 2002. But Bush played big roles in this week's setbacks, some Republicans and Democrats say, largely through his acrimonious relationship with Democrats, who still wield influence in the 100-member body.

    Monday's showdown over judicial appointments, they note, was set in motion when Bush renominated seven judges who were blocked by the Democrats in his first term, even though Senate Republicans continue to lack a filibuster-proof majority. Democrats said they saw it as a deliberate provocation, and Frist had no clear strategy for breaking their solid resistance. When Frist threatened to end judicial filibusters with a rules change, seven Democrats and seven Republicans -- led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- scrambled to cut a deal without him.

    "McCain Eclipses Frist" blared a headline in the next day's edition of the Hill newspaper.

    On Thursday, Democrats blamed Bush, not Frist, for the continued impasse over Bolton. The administration is "not giving us the information we wanted" about Bolton's record in the State Department, Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said.

    Frist had only eight years of Senate experience when he succeeded Lott, and some colleagues felt he was more Bush's choice than the GOP caucus's. He was bound to need more White House help than did up-through-the-ranks predecessors such as Lott and Dole, they said, but sometimes Bush seemed to dump tough problems at his door and walk away.

    Source: Washington Post

  2. #2
    Robert Novak, in an article entitled Cooperation falls apart in Senate pointed out that
    Not for the first time, the Bush White House congressional relations team was caught napping. Republicans began worrying Thursday when Dodd was observed working over his fellow Democrats. His complaint that Bolton had shared intercepts with a subordinate without clearance from the National Security Agency was irrelevant and inaccurate. But he mobilized Democrats even though his campaign against Bolton was a decision in search of justification.
    Even though his message was an attempt to justify the Republican position, the first sentence of the paragraph is suggesting the degree of alarm that the most die-hard Republican supporters are beginning to regard the White House mishandling of the Senate on the nomination of Bolton for UN Representative. In the meanwhile, Senator Frist is nowhere on the scene of this Senate turmoil.


  3. #3
    And this is from Cragg Hines on May 28, 2005, in the Houston Chronicle, concerning the body count in Congress this week:

    Well, on with the momentary body count. Atop the heap of wounded, and the clearest loser of the interesting week, is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. His stock didn't go up any when a vote on Bolton got moved past the Memorial Day recess.

    Given Frist's performance, "leader" should be in quotation marks. At this point it's purely notional. Frist, R-Tenn., anxious to burnish his credentials for an expected 2008 presidential campaign, could neither lead his own party to "nuclear" victory nor fashion a compromise with the opposing leader, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to supplant the deal reached by the "Gang of 14" more or less led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Reid is also on the losers list, not that it makes much difference.

    Oh, for a moment with former majority leaders, of either party. Somewhere Lyndon B. Johnson is having a good laugh; Mike Mansfield may even be allowing himself a wry chortle; and Robert C. Byrd, who is alive and mean and kicking at 87, was one of the leading conspirators in the bipartisan deal that laid Frist low.

    How low? Low enough that The Hill, a newspaper for congressional insiders, felt compelled to make its main headline on Wednesday: "McCain eclipses Frist ... ." It was as clear a consensus as Washington has seen lately. Another headline down the page (" ... but Frist hangs tough on 'nuclear'") simply completed the desperate picture.

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