With the Democrats ready to take charge of the Senate following Sen. James Jeffords defection from the GOP, the legislative direction of Congress is in for a major shift.
Jeffords switch will give the Democrats control of the Senate floor and the powerful committee chairmanships. As a result, President Bush and Senate Republicans now face an uphill battle to get their agenda through Congress.
Heres a look at what may be affected legislatively:
Judiciary Committee member Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday: "We will not have nominations of right-wing after right-wing after right-wing judges."
Meantime, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who will become the committees ranking Republican after the power shift, holds out hope for bipartisanship. "I really believe that theyll treat President Bushs nominees as I treated President Clintons. There should be no real argument because I treated them well."
Jeffords, who heads the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Democrat Ted Kennedy, who's likely to take his place, were both extremely outspoken about the package, saying that spending on certain education programs was too low.
And while Rothenberg says the Democrats won't get everything theyre asking for, "the weight of the Democratic position is much heavier."
Democratic plans for HMO reform and prescription drugs will also come to the forefront.
Although Jeffords chaired the health care committee as a Republican, with the Democrats in the majority, they will now have more members on the panel, making it easier for them to move their bills through, and quash Republican proposals.
In addition, Republican plans to have an energy bill by the Fourth of July will most likely be delayed. And President Bus's proposal to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which is already in trouble, may now be sunk.
Bear in mind, the Democrats will not be able to take full control of President Bush's agenda, simply because their Senate majority is slim and the Republicans still have control of the White House and the House of Representatives.
But Jeffords defection from the Republicans handed the Democrats a major bargaining chip that they didnt have without a majority. Now, Rothenberg points out, "Bush will have to negotiate with the Democrats."
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