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San Francisco Democrats Take Over: Who'll Leave First?

Thursday, 14 November 2002 12:00 AM

Pelosi promised to reach out to party conservatives and moderates. In an obvious gesture in that direction, she immediately chose as her assistant leader Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina.

Based on his voting record, the American Conservative Union gives Congressman Spratt a lifetime favorable rating of a paltry 27 percent. That at least surpasses Pelosi’s own nearly invisible 2 percent.

The South Carolinian, second-ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, has worked with Republicans on some matters. But the Almanac of American Politics cites his leading role in the “first significant defeat of a Contract for America promise in the Republican House” in 1995. That was when he successfully engineered an amendment to water down the Strategic Defense Initiative missile shield. During the fights over the Clinton scandals, Spratt’s partisan Democrat side could come through during House investigations.

Ever since election night Nov. 5, speculation and rumors have focused on the possibility that some of the more rightward-prone members of the thin cadre of center-right Democrats might switch to the GOP if House Democrats take a sharp turn to the left under the leadership of Congresswoman Pelosi.

United Press International has reported that Pelosi's status change has indeed inspired

Hall is so conservative that many have wondered why he did not change parties long ago. In fact, he promised that he would vote for Republican Dennis Hastert for re-election as House speaker had his vote been needed to keep the GOP in control. Of course, the Nov. 5 outcome made his vote unnecessary.

However, NewsMax hears that the 79-year-old Hall is likely to retire at the end of this term and is not inclined to make a party switch at this point in his life.

Taylor has criticized the leadership of his own party and the Republicans. When asked to vote for the October 1998 omnibus budget, he remarked (“characteristically,” says the Almanac), “One of the people [Clinton] asking us to trust him is now being studied to see if he committed perjury.” Taylor is against abortion, gun control, "free trade" and foreign aid.

Feisty to the point of being belligerent, the peppery Southern populist has opposed any U.S military involvement that stops short of total and assured victory. The Almanac says his positions over the years clearly identify Taylor as a protectionist, having voted against NAFTA, GATT and permanent normal trade relations with communist China.

However, when queried by NewsMax.com, a spokesman for Taylor said Thursday that the lawmaker had already told the media in his district that he would not switch parties unless the Republican leadership supported a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution “with no loopholes.” Dennis Hastert has been speaker for 1,411 days, noted the spokesman, and has yet to take that action.

Why this issue should be a sticking point remains a mystery. The Democrat leadership, of course, has never and will never propose a Balanced Budget Amendment.

In his early days in the House, Stenholm and then-Rep. Phil Gramm were leaders of the “Boll Weevil” Democrats who were instrumental in gaining House approval for the Reagan budget and tax cuts. Gramm resigned from the Democrat party and from Congress and ran for election as a Republican. He succeeded big time and three years later ran and was elected to the Senate, where he became one of its most conservative members.

Stenholm, on the other hand, stuck with the Democrats. In 1985, he threatened briefly to run against Speaker Tip O’Neill, D-Mass., but backed off when O’Neill promised to pay more attention to conservative Democrats' concerns.

Though the Texan’s credentials as a conservative derived from his role in the Reagan Revolution, that image faded as the years went by. Some compare him to the man who gets a reputation as an early riser and therefore gets away with sleeping until noon.

Republicans, according to the Almanac, came to view Stenholm “as a conservative talker but a partisan Democratic doer.” Quite often, they complained, he would talk up a conservative initiative and then bail out at the end.

But the lawmaker has voted to allow individual investment accounts as part of Social Security, and was one of five House Democrats who voted to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998.

Again referring to the Almanac, “Stenholm’s party label carries a heavy price in a district that has shed its long-held aversion to voting Republican.” On Nov. 5, he won re-election by a mere 3 percentage points, his closest call yet. His constituents have been voting Republican in recent elections for every other office from president down to county commissioner.

Nonetheless, a spokeswoman for the Texas Democrat told NewsMax that he had just said Thursday that he has been a Democrat for his entire political career, was comfortable remaining a Democrat, and would not switch parties.

When he was first elected, Lucas stressed he was a “commonsense conservative, pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-business.” He pledged to fight crime, Internet pornography and welfare fraud. He said he would limit himself to three terms, which would make this term his last if he sticks to that promise.

One could ask what the congressman would have to lose by switching parties in an area whose voters backed President Bush in 2000 by 61 percent to 37 percent. His office had not answered a NewsMax inquiry on this subject as of this writing.

In 1996, his first race, McIntyre beat a party-line left-winger in the primary before going on to win in the general. He has called for smaller government and voted for the proposed constitutional amendment against flag burning, the ban on partial-birth abortion and sunset of the tax code. He posted the Ten Commandments in his office.

By the same token,, the North Carolinian has supported race preferences and quotas and opposed school vouchers.

With backing from the Chamber of Commerce and organized labor, McIntyre told NewsMax through a spokesman that he saw no reason to switch.

These are the lawmakers who would appear most likely to jump. But at the moment they don’t appear ready to do so. Who knows? A conservative voting record is not always the definitive indicator.

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado scored a fairly liberal record as a Democrat. But that did not prevent him from switching to the GOP in 1995. Since then, his record has veered more to the right.

Rep. Collin Peterson, a moderate Democrat from of Minnesota (ACU 44 percent) has been the center of switching talk for years. But again, that’s speculation.

Nancy Pelosi’s promotion to the House Democrats' top spot is just starting to sink in. Perhaps in the days ahead, some conservative and moderate Democrats will rethink their positions on party label.

As of now, there appears to be little action despite UPI's article and a comment to NewsMax by a GOP operative right after the election that there may indeed be some defections. We’ll see.

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Pelosi promised to reach out to party conservatives and moderates. In an obvious gesture in that direction, she immediately chose as her assistant leader Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina. Based on his voting record, the American Conservative Union gives Congressman...
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Thursday, 14 November 2002 12:00 AM
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