One thing that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has learned in his time in leadership is that if nothing else, Democrats are essentially legislative bullies. Always have been, always will be.
Yesterday's performance on the Senate floor was yet another example, as Sen. Russ Feingold, he of the McCain/Feingold campaign finance reform disaster, attempted to have the Senate take up censure legislation against President Bush for the overseas terrorism monitoring program.
And Frist let him.
Much to the amazement of his fellow Republicans, Frist called the Democrats on their bluff and they folded. In fact, Sen. Harry Reid looked downright ill when Frist came forward and essentially dared his Democrat counterpart to get a vote through.
Reid, who has been talking a good game the last few days, gulped and folded like so many of the tourists his home state makes its billions off of.
According to Senate sources, Frist intends to let the Democrats put just about any kind of censure legislation they want up for a vote, knowing that Democrats have neither the votes nor the nerve to follow through, particularly in an election year. And it's already causing Reid some heartburn.
"We get the impression that the minority leader just thought he could coast through this session," says a Democratic staffer for a far-left Senator. "We want to be aggressive on this administration's lies, and Reid wants us to go away, but if we have to make him a little uncomfortable to make the Republicans even more uncomfortable, so be it."
According to Democrat sources, Reid will attempt to bring his caucus to some kind of order as early as today, but is not hopeful about his chances. He has several fellow Democrats working to undercut his leadership: Sens. Dick Durbin, Christopher Dodd and Feingold, to name just three. Dodd has eyes on the leadership post down the road, Feingold has possible presidential credentials to burnish with the far left.
But none of them could get their colleagues to buy into a censure vote. Throughout the day as Feingold attempted to garner support, his Democrat colleagues went before the press and just shook their heads when asked about the censure vote.
Frist, for his part, is more than willing to let the Democrats devour their own, and is emboldened. Speaking about the Monday Democrat debacle, one Frist associate said, "[Frist] pushed them to the mat today, and they blinked. He dared them to vote and Democrat Leader Harry Reid looked like he was going to be sick as he said no. Frist thinks it's time to call Democrats on their antics, and so he's going to continue to dare Democrats to vote on censuring the President. When it comes to intercepting phone calls from Tora Bora to Topeka, Frist thinks Senate Democrats have made a huge blunder, and he will lead the charge to make Democrats put up or shut up on censure."
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