Tags: Jeffords | Hands | Control | Senate | Democrats

Jeffords Hands Control of Senate to Democrats

Thursday, 24 May 2001 12:00 AM

CNSNews.com -- Sen. James Jeffords, a Republican from Vermont, is now an Independent from Vermont, becoming the 19th Senator in history to switch parties while in office.

The first words out of his mouth were in reference to the crowd of reporters and supporters waiting to hear his decision: "Wow, the Vermont press bureau has really grown since I've been away," he joked.

Then he launched into The Speech: "Anyone that knows me knows I love Vermont. Vermont has always been known for its independence and social conscience...For the past several weeks I have been struggling with a very difficult decision...I've been talking with my family and a few close advisers about whether I should remain a Republican. I do not approach this question lightly," Jeffords said, but given the fact that he increasingly finds himself in disagreement with his Party, he said he can no longer remain a Republican.

"In order to best represent my state of Vermont, my own conscience and principles I have stood for my whole life, I will become an Independent." (Big round of applause from those assembled.) He said he will organize with the Democrats, giving them control of the Senate. Jeffords displayed some emotion while admitting that his decision to leave the GOP may hurt some of his colleagues, friends, and supporters.

"I regret this very much," he said, adding that he's confident he's made the right decision.

Jeffords said his move will take effect after the signing of the tax bill that made it through the Senate yesterday, and that he promised the president he wouldn't interfere with that legislation. Jeffords has told Senate leaders he will caucus with Democrats and vote with Democrats in terms of organizing the Senate. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., will become majority leader, with the ability to bring bills to the floor. Democrats will take over as chairmen of most committees.

The Senate Judiciary Committee chairmanship will go to Sen. Joseph Biden of Deleware. Majority status will provide new weapons in the Democrats' campaign to hijack judicial selections, said Thomas L. Jipping, director of Judicial Selection Monitoring Project of the Free Congress Foundation in Washington.

"Senate Democrats were already trying to dictate judicial nominations by manipulating confirmations. Majority status will provide new weapons in the Democrats' campaign to hijack judicial selections."

Jipping has been critical of Senate Democrats who have changed their position on whether individual Senators should be able to veto nominations in their states. Though they demand a veto now, it was none other than Senator Edward Kennedy who ended this policy when he chaired the Judiciary Committee a quarter-century ago. Biden also rejected a home-state veto when he previously chaired the committee, saying that if the White House consults with home state senators, they will not be able to veto nominees. Democrat control of the Senate, Jipping said, means "Democrats can now change their own policy by granting individual senators an unconstitutional confirmation veto."

Finally, Jipping expects that Democrats "will quickly abandon their past demands for more confirmations, fewer vacancies, and non-partisan evaluations."

In an attempt to keep Jeffords in the party, Majority Leader Sen. Trent Lott offered Jeffords an appointed leadership position, more money for favored education programs and a waiver of term limits to let him remain chairman of the Education Committee beyond the end of next year.

At the same time, Senate aides said Jeffords had approved staff meetings with Democrats to discuss preparations for taking over the chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee, the post Democrats were offering if he would bolt the GOP.

(C)

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CNSNews.com -- Sen. James Jeffords, a Republican from Vermont, is now an Independent from Vermont, becoming the 19th Senator in history to switch parties while in office. The first words out of his mouth were in reference to the crowd of reporters and supporters waiting to...
Jeffords,Hands,Control,Senate,Democrats
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2001-00-24
Thursday, 24 May 2001 12:00 AM
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