Harriet Miers in her Dallas office, 1991 – Chicago Tribune (thanks, Rosemary!)
Are there so many cracks now that Harriet Miers’ nomination may crumble? From George Wills’ condemnation of Bush’s decision-making and choice to Trent Lott’s dismay (calling it a “mistake”) to this — “Cracks begin to emerge in mantle of Republican majority” — just in from John Byrne, publisher and editor-in-chief of Raw Story.
Byrne writes in an e-mail, “The mainstream press has yet to pick up on the fact that Brownback, Lott and Warner are all suddenly challenging Frist’s control of the Senate — which may spell trouble down the road. Meanwhile, the Gang of 14 is meeting at 4:30.”
In fact, the media has featured Trent Lott’s statements before the cameras today — the footage has been replayed hourly on MSNBC and CNN. And Scarborough and others are talking up Brownback’s opposition. (Of course, meanwhile, the increasingly laughable NYT — the paper of record no more? — has done another shoddy job of vetting its source on Miers’ background.)
Byrne has written a fine piece that puts it together for us:
WASHINGTON — It began on a quiet Thursday afternoon in May. Fourteen senators from both parties reached across the aisle to form a pact that ensured that a longstanding rule preserving the rights of the minority party – the Democrats – would survive.
That evening, Republican leader Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) took to a nearly empty Senate chamber to denounce the deal. His voice was defiant but tempered with defeat – Republicans would not get an “up or down vote” on their President’s coveted judicial nominees.
In retrospect, the deal likely marked the first crack in the levee of the Republican Congress. Since then, a fissure in Senate Republican discipline – paired with the triple indictment of House Republican mastermind Tom DeLay (R-TX) – has sent the conservative caucus spiraling into increasingly entropic waters.
On Tuesday, two leading Republican senators broke ranks. The first was Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KN), who signaled that he might oppose Harriet Miers, President Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court.
The second was Senate veteran John Warner (R-VA). Warner openly criticized Frist for stalling the military’s budget bill. For a man known to prefer backdoor channels to bare-knucked politics, the senator’s words rang like an air raid siren through the halls of Congress.
And on Wednesday, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-TN) joined in, saying President Bush’s choice for the Court was “clearly not” the most qualified person for the job.
While hardly all-out rebellion, the three senators’ comments may presage unrest to come. As Senate leader, Frist sets the timetable for when legislation is voted on; he is the gatekeeper of the President’s agenda.
Frist has prevented a vote on the military budget because he is certain to lose a battle over an amendment authored by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) which prohibits the Administration from employing torture — a measure that President Bush has threatened to veto. …
Bush’s nomination of his trusted counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court has further illustrated the growing divide in his party. Miers received an “underwhelming” rating from many grassroots conservatives; Brownback is not alone in concerns that Miers may not be the best conservative the President could have selected.
The party is also restive about the budget. Fiscal conservatives are aghast that Bush has presided over the largest increase in government spending in U.S. history. Even the American Conservative Union – on whose board sits Rove ally Grover Norquist – slammed Bush and the Republican Congress for reckless spending in mid-September.
“Conservatives throughout the United States are increasingly losing faith in the President and the Republican Leadership in Congress to adequately prioritize and rein in overall federal spending,” ACU chairman David Keene quipped.
Where Democrats have struggled to maintain party unity, it has been the Republicans’ ability to ensure party fealty that drove President Bush’s aggressive legislative agenda through Congress. Like Democrats, Republicans hold a panoply of differing views on social and fiscal issues, but their ability to vote along party lines has given them the mantle of certainty.
What was once a hairline fracture in party cohesion is now a broken bone. Whether Republicans in Congress can reform a disciplined cavalcade behind the party’s agenda and its leadership – as the Democrats did on Social Security – may be the difference between holding onto the presidency and Congress and losing control in the years to come.
And as for the fourteen senators who held together the filibuster and marked the first crack in Republican hegemony: they’re meeting today at 4:30.
Read all at Raw Story