Monday, January 30, 2006

Chafee's Last Betrayal

Well, maybe not the last, but certainly the last time the guy will do much of significance in Washington. Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) is opposing the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

In this statement, while Chafee acknowledges Alito's judicial credentials, he goes on to list a litany of political concerns, chiefly the fact that in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, that he voted to uphold the entire Pennsylvania law with abortion preconditions, rather than just the 3/4 of it that the rest of the 3rd Circuit supported. He also stands with the left on the validity of Roe v. Wade, and their belief that it can NEVER be overturned.

And then in a very curious misunderstanding of the principle of federalism, questions Alito's views on executive powers, believing them to confer too much power on the executive, but not happy that he chooses to limit Congress's intrusions into people's private lives through the Commerce Clause, which has been used to justify any number of power grabs from the states. He gives a great example regarding environmental legislation, arguing that Alito's honest legal perspective may affect Chafee's pet political goals. If the Supreme Court finds that Congress overreached in environmental regulation of what should be state matters, certain provisions of the Clean Water Act may fall. But what worries Chafee is the political loss, not the correction of the law to meet the requirements of the Constitution.

Chafee has a distinguished career as a wishy-washy New England liberal. Chafee also has an election coming up this year in the fairly blue state of New England. But here's the rub: One needs money to run in an election. And while he'll surely get some, his recent history of remarkably disloyal behavior will likely not get him much in the way of support from the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. Likewise, he is looking at a primary challenge from the right which probably won't be much of anything, but will require the expenditure of cash. Regardless of that, Chafee's decision to go off the ranch won't have much affect. Apparently the Republicans have added Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) who does not wish to make any uncomfortable explanations to voters in his very red state this fall, to their list of Alito supporters.

So in light of years of difficult and disloyal behavior, Chafee's seat may be one that the Republicans are willing to let go.

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