Wednesday, December 22, 2010

bipartisanship, a dish best served cold

It's been quite a lame duck session, has it not? What was supposed to be a legislative winding down of the 111th Congress saw the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, ratification of the New START Treaty, and a tax cut package no one seems to know what to make of, as well as serious pushes of a 9/11 worker health bill and the DREAM Act.

What's been most interesting about it has been the sudden flood of Republican "yea" votes in the Senate, where none have been seen in years it seems. The usual suspects who've flirted with bipartisanship in the last few years -- i.e., the three New England Republicans not named "Judd Gregg" -- finally started following through, and even Gregg himself put his country first on START. We also saw a few one-offs from erstwhile party men like Bob Corker.

And then there are the Democrats' new best friends, Republicans who voted for several Democratic initiatives who've never cottoned to anything with the slightest whiff of donkey before. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Dick Lugar (R-IN) voted for the DREAM Act and the START Treaty. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Arlen Specter (?-PA) voted for all three. Yeah, that's right: the DREAM Act, a bill laying out a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, got votes from a Utah Republican and an Alaska Republican.

Lugar's harder to figure out (he's quite old, and may be headed for retirement), but Murkowski, Specter* and Bennett share a particular something in common: they were both primaried this year and lost. It's interesting to see that Senators are normally this petty, and it isn't just a particular personality who radically changes his voting patterns to get revenge on party leadership after such an event. Not sure, however, if it's comforting or disheartening.

*I suppose technically Specter lost the Democratic primary, but he was only in that party because he'd been driven out of the GOP by Senator-elect (ugh) Pat Toomey.

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