Tags: Jeffords' | Defection | 'Huge | Setback' | for | Bush

Jeffords' Defection a 'Huge Setback' for Bush

Thursday, 24 May 2001 12:00 AM

For more on "what's expected to be a very rough day for the White House" they went to Lisa Myers in Washington. Myers, reporting that "many Republicans do blame the White House," interviewed John McCain, R-Ariz., who agreed, "You cannot threaten to punish or retaliate against people who don't always vote your way."

Patrick Garahan, head of the Vermont Republican Party, told NBC that Jeffords' defection hurts people all over the country - people in other states, who gave Republicans control of the Senate - only to see their efforts overturned by the defection of a Republican from Vermont.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Senate minority leader, soon to be majority leader, said he and his colleagues planned to work with the president. "Obviously, I stand ready to work with him," Daschle said. "I intend to make a call to the president this afternoon in the hope that we can reach out and express my hope that we can work closely together on issues for which there is agreement, resolve those differences in areas for which there is none."

Jeffords' defection to the Independent Party means the power now shifts to Democrats for the first time since 1994. Daschle said his first priority after the holiday weekend was to work on the education bill, followed by a patient's bill of rights.

"I think it's too early to talk about specific legislative approaches at this point. It will be my expectation that when we come back, assuming that we will be in the majority beginning the work period, upon the conclusion of the Memorial Day recess, to complete the education bill," Daschle said.

"Obviously we will be unable to complete it this week, but my sincere hope is that we will complete it as soon as we come back."

McCain - who has also been wooed by Democrats - said he was sorry to see "an independent, principled" senator leave the GOP, and he criticized Republicans for "bullying" Jeffords.

"Tolerance of dissent is the hallmark of a mature party, and it is well past time for the Republican Party to grow up," McCain said.

He blamed "K Street operatives" and some Republicans on Capitol Hill for unfairly abusing Jeffords "for his votes of conscience." Said McCain, "Perhaps those self-appointed enforcers of party loyalty will learn to respect honorable differences among us, learn to disagree without resorting to personal threats, and recognize that we are a party large enough to accommodate something short of strict unanimity on the issues of the day."

McCain said Jeffords' departure could have a positive effect on how Republicans respond to future dissenters in the ranks.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert said it was too early to tell what effect Jeffords' defection will have on the Republican Party and on Congress.

"I have been in the business a long time. I have been in all kinds of configurations, both minority and majority, and we will have to step up and do the best job we can and try to move our agenda - a very good agenda for the American people," said Hastert.


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For more on what's expected to be a very rough day for the White House they went to Lisa Myers in Washington. Myers, reporting that many Republicans do blame the White House, interviewed John McCain, R-Ariz., who agreed, You cannot threaten to punish or retaliate...
Thursday, 24 May 2001 12:00 AM
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