Monday, January 12, 2009

Lobster Burgoo, Anyone?

The Miami Herald reports today that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's power to lead Republican Senators in the new Congress may hinge on coming up with policy recipes to entice three particular members of his caucus -- Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania:

The three Northeastern senators were supporters of some Democratic-backed social policy issues in the past, hail from a region of the country where the GOP's legislative ranks have significantly thinned and represent many left- to moderate-leaning voters.
Democrats have a 57-41 Senate majority, with seats in Illinois and Minnesota still being contested.

''Compared to having 49 senators, [McConnell] is in a much worse position. If he didn't have 41, he would have no power at all,'' said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

"Collins, Snowe and Specter will stick with Republicans on procedural and business and labor votes, so on some issues he will be able to hold the caucus together -- especially if Democrats ride roughshod over them. But on social issues, they have to survive an environment that has killed off Republicans in the Northeastern area.''

This puts the three Northeastern lawmakers in a prime position to negotiate with McConnell and Republican leadership, said former Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who became an independent after losing his 2006 reelection bid to represent Rhode Island.

''He'll appeal to make sure they don't abandon the entire Republican caucus,'' Chafee said.
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