On Thursday former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle spoke at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. At that breakfast Lott and Daschle achieved a Vulcan mind-meld with each other on what Senate Majority Leader needs to do in the new Congress: keep those federal dollars rolling towards K Street and ignore everything else.
Bipartisanship is somewhere between a fetish and a religion with people who don’t really believe in anything. Why anyone thinks it makes sense to elect politicians in a partisan contest and then want them to be bipartisan, thereby jettisoning the very values that made them attractive to voters, escapes me. The fact is that bipartisan is a code word for pork.
That’s important to breaking the gridlock in Congress, according to Mr. Lott, the former senator and majority leader from Mississippi. His advice was dittoed by another former senator and majority leader, Democrat Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Both spoke at a Monitor breakfast on Thursday.
Through their engagement with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, the two have been promoting ways to return Congress to a more productive era.
As has been said, “no man’s life, liberty, or property are secure when the legislature’s in session.” Those words are as true today as they were a hundred years ago. Given Lott’s record as a porkmeister everyone should be terrified if he thinks Congress is “productive.”
“The leadership is going to have to find a way to deal sternly with some of these members…. I wouldn’t put up with some of the stuff that they’re doing,” said Lott. He characterized last year’s partial government shutdown – spearheaded by tea party favorite [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] of Texas – as a “fraud.”
Meanwhile, he said, the incoming majority leader should quickly deputize people to work with the new Republican senators, bring them in the loop and close to leadership, “to make sure they don’t slip away from them” to the right flank.
Senator Daschle agreed: “The more you can include, the more you can engage, the more you can bring them in … the more likely it is that those stand-your-ground types will look at the advantages of finding common ground.”
Usually pork is defended on the basis that the framers of the Constitution wanted, indeed demanded, that members of Congress be allowed to spend public dollars on highways, post offices, and studying the post-coital habits of the snail darter. Her Lott actually gives away the game. Pork, in the form of earmarks, is a tool that allows the leadership to control their caucus and inflict pain on rebels.
It’s harder to reward and punish members of a caucus when earmarks are no longer available as sticks and carrots, Lott admitted. But [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] of Kentucky “is a very smooth operator.” He pointed to McConnell’s close relationship with [mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] of Kentucky – also a tea party icon and a potential presidential candidate – as an example of how to work with senators who would rather stand their ground than find common ground.
This is just nonsense. We know how the Democrats will act once they regain control of the Senate so why in the name of Heaven would we give them a tool to make the Senate even more difficult to control?
Lott said restoring the minority party’s power to filibuster nominees could help improve the Senate’s bilious atmosphere.
“I would hope that they would reverse the nuclear option. That would be a sign that we’re not going to have things that way,” he said at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. “I think it would help get them off on the right foot.”
Lott said he told McConnell and his staff “that I hope they would do that.”
In short, Lott recommended that McConnell just give the Senate back to [mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ] to run and concentrate on rounding up the votes necessary to pass Democrat legislation.
This does serve notice on all of us that we need to keep a sharp eye out on our new Senators and let them know that if they get too chummy with Lott, Daschle, and the GOP leadership when it goes astray that they could figuratively find themselves facing a firing squad next election.