Thursday, December 14, 2006

Cynical, Morbid Question

Given that Democratic Senator Tim Johnson (get well soon, Tim!) can only be replaced by South Dakota's Republican governor (thus returning control of the Senate to the Republicans) if he dies (or retires), I have to ask...

If he ends up braindead and on life support, will the Republicans and their fundie minions put up the same fight to keep him alive that they did for Terri Schiavo? Or will they start gravely pontificating about the importance of his right to "die with dignity"?

I know, I'm a horrible person for even thinking about this, and I want nothing more than for Johnson to make a full recovery and for this situation to remain eternally hypothetical. But when vicki made a snarky comment about Frist doing a diagnosis-by-video, it got me to wondering just how deep the Republican commitment to preserving life really runs, especially when that life stands between them and something shiny.


op99 said...

Three guesses with whom Lieberman would caucus should Tim die before January, Dog forbid.

Eli said...

The thing is, if he jumps, then Johnson's situation doesn't really affect control of the Senate. Johnson dying would actually be a *negative* outcome for Joe, because the Republicans wouldn't *need* him to recover their majority. He would be more of a Republican hanger-on than a hero, and probably wouldn't get any of the really juicy committee assignments.

And he'd still be facing grim times if the Democrats can take advantage of their 12-to-21 advantage in up-for-grabs seats in 2008. So my gut feeling is that he stays put unless he thinks he can be president, or vice-president.

op99 said...

Insightful points. I'm just thinking, he will want to align himself with whomever is in power NOW. Then, when the power shifts back, him being an independent CFL and all, he will be free to switch back under some bullshit rationalization.

Under my scenario (if TJ dies soon and Joe goes R), he has Class 2 power for 2 years, then he would drop to class 3 power in '08 even though he switches back in a safely D senate without him. He would be kind of a pariah then on both sides.

Under your scenario (if TJ dies soon and Joe stays D), he drops to Class 4 power (by virtue of being in the minority), then vaults to probably class 1 power in '08.

As you astutely point out, there's no doubt that Joe will be praying hard for TJ's survival, because that is his best outcome, he gets Class 1 power now for as long as the D's hold the senate.

Eli said...

Well, realistically, Lieberman can never really be a "Class 1" power (i.e., leadership position) as an independent, and I'm not sure a belated switch back to having an affiliation would change that.

Basically, Lieberman's power will be dependent on two things: Whether he's aligned with the majority, and how indebted that majority is to him. I would say that in the short term, he's probably better off flipping and making the Republicans the majority, because the Dems know they'll probably retake the Senate again in '08. Plus I think the inducement to switch sides has to exceed the inducement to stay, just because of the risk to his career and his *snort* "legacy".

Once the Democrats have a solid majority, Joe has no more cards to play regardless of which side he's on, and his status will depend largely on the goodwill of the party he caucuses with. And as feckless as the Dems are, I think even they would give him the back of their hand if he switched to the Republicans and then switched back just to be on the winning team. Which is why I think he'll stick with the Dems, in hopes that his seniority and (ha) loyalty will be rewarded.

op99 said...

The other thing is, assuming JL sticks with the Ds, his reward is a juicy chairmanship because he's the pivotal guy. Then, in 2008 when presumably Ds pad their majority and no longer "need" JL, they're not going to turn around and strip him of his assignment, no matter how badly he shafted them in the meantime. Which will suck.

Eli said...

I wonder if they'll have the balls to threaten him with it on important votes. I.e., "If you vote for Alito Jr. for SCOTUS, you can kiss the Homeland Security committee goodbye."

I wonder if he'd be procedurally easier to remove from committees if he's no longer officially a Dem.

Ghost of Joe Liebling's Dog said...

"Three guesses with whom Lieberman would caucus should Tim die before January, Dog forbid."

I have no control over this at all ... although nothing horrible that Lieberman comes up with would surprise me even slightly, and although I am hoping for Johnson's swift and complete recovery.

With kind regards,
Dog, etc.
searching for home

Rufus said...

I'm actually kinda surprised that Lieberman hasn't tried to use this situation to put himself in the middle of another Gang-of-14 sort of deal.

I'd have expected him to already be on the Sunday talkies, saying that the Dems should go ahead and enter into a power-sharing agreement with the GOP, with the subtext that if they don't, the fact that he's an independent, bipartisan sort of guy means that he can entertain bids from both sides, so both sides (i.e. the Dems) had better dance to his tune.

Johnson's health problems, combined with the MSM mentioning every 15 seconds that this could tip the balance in the Senate (only if he dies or resigns, guys, otherwise the Dems still have a 50-49 majority, barring Liebertrayal), gives Holy Joe the appearance of a plausible excuse for doing this, so I'm really kind of amazed he hasn't.

Maybe our luck will hold.