The coup that wasn’t?

Politics, US Politics

It seemed like such a genius move: tempt a Republican Senator who was facing less than pleasant electoral prospects into accepting a Cabinet job, and in one blow gain a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. No wonder Republicans freaked when the name of New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg was first floated for the Commerce Secretary job.

Amid liberal dissatisfaction about recent moves by Obama on the stimulus bill and Geithner’s and Daschle’s appointments, this was suddenly a move Democrats could applaud in incredulous glee. What a coup!

But now what? The Republican Senate leadership has reversed from “mounting a full-court press to keep [Gregg] in the Senate” to openly embracing his appointment. Mitch McConnell says there’s a deal, and that New Hampshire’s Democratic governor, John Lynch, will appoint a Republican in Gregg’s place. (Actually, he phrases it somewhat more cautiously as someone who “would caucus with Senate Republicans”.)

So what will the upshot be? Gregg is no Jim Jeffords, or even an Olympia Snowe. He’s a Republican for real. Check Congressional Quarterly’s comprehensive analysis of roll call voting patterns. According to its Presidential Support ranking, Gregg voted according to Bush’s preference 82% of the time in 2008 (only eight Republicans voted with Bush more often). Its Party Unity ranking shows that when a majority of Democrats faced off against a majority of Republicans, Gregg voted with the Republican majority 95% of the time. Sam Brownback was more of a dissident than Gregg. As a sour Democrat told the HuPo, Gregg is “a fiscal conservative, would likely oppose the president’s stimulus package, and has cast a “fair amount of gotcha votes” while in office.”

So at the end of this manoeuvre, will Obama have appointed a true conservative in exchange for – well, pretty much no strategical gains? Yes, I suppose a freshman Republican Senator who will have been appointed in Gregg’s place will be easier to beat in ’10 than Gregg would have been. But Gregg was himself already strongly at risk of defeat, so that’s a marginal advantage. Maybe you could argue that at least Lynch might appoint a somewhat more explicitly moderate Republican in Gregg’s place – but that seems an odd rationale for appointing the conservative guy to a Cabinet position.

Maybe, as Jason Zengerle suggests, Lynch wants to run for Senate himself in ’10, and is therefore happy to appoint a Republican ‘placeholder’, so he won’t face an incumbent in ’10. But there again the strategic plus for the Dems is marginal – US Rep. Hodes would stand a good chance too, in either case, and is more of a committed Democrat than Lynch at that. So what’s the deal?

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Allowed tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>