So are there any senators in the Fainthearted Faction?
Hard to tell -- certainly a lot harder than in the House, where you've got Ford as Dean and Allen Boyd as Vice Chair.
The only guy who seems clearly in is Ben Nelson
He's frequently talked up by the White House as someone who they think they can get to come across. And here's what the Journal said
about him last week ...
Mr. Nelson says he is "not saying no to some level of privatization " and is spending the holiday recess assembling a template for overhaul. He says he won't support a plan that could destabilize the current system and says he will insist on "real accounting" in tracking the cost. Like Sens. Conrad and Graham, he doesn't rule out painful steps like cutting benefits. "It's always an option," Mr. Nelson says. "It's sort of the last thing you do."
So, by Senate standards, Nelson's definitely in <$Ad$> the faction. But even he seems pretty tentative in his support, and seems to be signaling, in a couple points he makes, that at least the current Bush plan would be a hard sell for him.
also suggests that Sen. Kent Conrad
of North Dakota, who's ranking member
on the Budget Committee, is a possible pick-up for the White House. But from what I can tell from the piece they do so on pretty thin evidence. Conrad just did co-author this USA Today OpEd
with Lindsey Graham
, and the piece conspicuously does not rule out privatization. But from what relatively little I know of the guy I have a hard time seeing him play ball on this. And his pretty strong deficit hawk credentials makes me even more dubious of his signing on to the fiscal insanity of the president's plan. So without some clearer evidence I see no reason to put him in the Faction.
(It's worth noting that senators, for good reasons and bad, are usually temperamentally averse to ruling things out categorically before the legislative process gets underway.)
I've also had concern mentioned to me about three other senators -- Lincoln
, in part because of their sponsorship of a new group called Third Way
I feel a certain amount of disorientation or ideological vertigo calling out a group named Third Way since I think of myself as a third way kind of a guy and basically Clintonite in my politics, all the political polarization of the last four years notwithstanding. But what caught some folks attention is that Third Way's president is a guy named Jonathan Cowan
You may know Cowan as the founder of Americans for Gun Safety
, a group that tried to give gun-safety measures more reach into the redder part of the country. But veterans of the Social Security debate also remember him as a founder of Lead...or Leave
, a Gen X advocacy group, and also a staunch supporter of privatization.
As recently as May 16th 2000 he wrote an OpEd in the Christian Science Monitor
which hit all the main themes of the privatization argument.
Still, that's just way too thin a reed in itself to get those three senators into the Faction.
So that's our very tentative run-down for the moment. Hints and allegations, yes. But when you add it all up, just one senator in the faction, Ben Nelson
, and even that one not all that eagerly.
If you've any more clues or info about fainthearts in the upper chamber, definitely send them our way.