Frist Grows Backbone
Should Mark Kennedy make a move to the upper chamber after the 2006 elections, one of his first acts will be electing a new Majority Leader. That's because Senator Frist has vowed to leave the Senate after the 109th Congress adjourns to (presumably) seek the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. If Frist follows through on his threat to reform the judicial confirmation process and follow Senate tradition by seeking the two-thirds-to-one-third advantage in money and resources for the majority, he just might show he has the mettle to secure said nomination.
The GOP's four-seat gain in the Senate in November's election has emboldened Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) to limit the Democrats' influence by reworking the appropriations for Senate committee in hopes of giving Republicans a two-thirds-to-one-third advantage in resources.
Frist's willingness to use hardball tactics represents a change for the majority leader who took over at the start of the last Congress with a razor-thin 51-to-49 advantage and was criticized by some conservatives for failing to halt Democratic filibusters against 10 of President Bush's judicial nominees. For the first time, Frist now has the leverage to push through a conservative agenda, with or without the liberals in his own caucus.
By taking a tough stand on committee resources, Frist has angered Democrats grown accustomed to an equal share of funding. Starting with the 107th Congress in 2001, Republicans altered the allocation of committee resources to reflect the Senate's 50-50 split. When the GOP picked up a seat in the 2002 elections, Republicans received 51% of the resources to the Democrats' 49%.
Under Frist's plan, GOP committee staff would get two-thirds of the resources. Despite their gripes, Democrats operated exactly that way when they controlled the Senate with a 57-43 majority in 1993. Of the Senate's 18 committees, Democrats controlled two-thirds of resources on 12 of them. On four others, they had at least 60% of resources. When Republicans took control of the Senate in the 1994 election, they adopted the same practice.
"Throughout the recent history of the Senate, it's been majority two-thirds, minority one-third," Frist's spokesman, Bob Stevenson, told HUMAN EVENTS. "The majority needs to run the operation. They need to run the committee hearings. They need to operate the committees. Therefore, they need the larger staff."