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No Room for GOP Moderates

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sen. Lindsey Graham predicted a looming “rebellion” from rank-and-file GOP Senators and hoped Sen. Olympia Snowe’s departure would be a “wake-up call.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), known both as a deal-maker and a conservative, said he felt there was a looming rebellion from rank-and-file GOP Senators waiting to govern.

This hopefully will be a wake-up call for the Senate, Graham said of Snowes retirement. Theres a rank-and-file rebellion brewing here ... a lot of us are getting tired of just sitting around looking at each other.

He continued, Its not so much about the ideology that holds us back, you can be ideological. [Democratic Sen. Edward] Kennedy was ideological. You could get things done. [Republican Sen.] Jesse Helms was ideological. He was able to get things done. Whats wrong is that we cant find common ground on the issues that require it, and I think these super PACs are going to make it harder, not easier.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) voluntarily gave up his GOP leadership post in January because he, too, felt the chambers partisanship is too limiting. Rather than retire, Alexander said he hopes to foment change as a rank-and-file Member.

Former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who retired last cycle and is now involved with the centrist group No Labels, said in an interview Wednesday that, during his time in the Senate, it became clear the chamber was becoming more polarized and that outside groups with ample resources were partially responsible.

In the House, it was the gerrymander that really polarized the institution. In the Senate, its the large sums of money from groups with an agenda, Bayh said.

Republican Senators who were asked Wednesday if Snowe might have felt unwelcome in the Conference because of her moderate politics answered no. Instead, they focused on general legislative dysfunction, from a president running against a do-nothing Congress to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) regularly opting for a closed amendment process.

Im one of those people, one GOP Senator said, when asked if the Conference has become inhospitable to deal-makers and bipartisanship. Its not so much a problem in the caucus as it is getting things done in the overall Senate. The entire systems not working.

Sen. Susan Collins said the Senates moderates are increasingly vilified by both the far left and the far right.

We used to be applauded for bringing people together to actually solve problems. Now we tend to be criticized by both sides, the Maine Republican said. But thats not unique to the Republican caucus. Believe me, talking to my friends in the Democratic caucus, they hear the same kinds of criticism.

But theres reason to believe Snowes troubles were as much with the GOP as they were with the institution.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), speaking to party activists at the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., made headlines when he said hed rather a Republican Conference made up of 30 who believe in the principles of freedom than 60 who dont believe in anything. It takes at least 41 votes to mount a filibuster.

Let me make myself even clearer, DeMint added in his remarks at CPAC. Id rather have 30 Marco Rubios in the Senate than 60 Arlen Specters, referring to the Pennsylvania Senator who switched from Republican to Democrat in 2009.

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