Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday May 25, 2001

Jim Jeffords hands Senate power to Democrats

President George W. Bush went on the defensive yesterday after a senator bolted Republican ranks, tipping the balance of power in Washington.

In Cleveland, a sombre Bush was swift to defend his policies and his view of himself as a conciliator. He said he respected Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords, whom he called a “distinguished United States senator.”

“But respectfully,” he added, “I couldn’t disagree more (with his views). Our agenda for reforming America’s public schools and providing tax relief for every taxpayer represents the hopes and dreams of main-street America. Our agenda for reforming our military . . . represents the best hope for peace.”

“I was elected to get things done on behalf of the American people and to work with both Republicans and Democrats,” Bush said, “and we’re doing just that.”

It was Bush’s right-wing agenda that Jeffords could not stomach and which triggered his actions. In rebelling against his party, Jeffords ensured himself a place in the political history books.

His move to become an Independent marks the first time in U.S. history that the defection of one congressman switched the balance of power on Capitol Hill.

No later than June 5, Democrats will assume control of the Senate and the political agenda in this country in what amounts to a colossal blow to Bush’s plans.

What had been a 50-50 Senate controlled by Republicans with Vice-President Dick Cheney’s tie-breaking vote now becomes a 51-49 Democratic majority with Jeffords’ support. (Hamilton Spectator)

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