Even though she’s been a Democrat all her life and now in the Senate for approaching 14 years, Sen. Mary Landrieu still has not internalized how her political party operates – either stay completely loyal to liberalism, or you will be used and burned at the liberal leadership’s convenience, to your state’s detriment.
Landrieu got another reminder of this when she was passed over for the chairmanship of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Homeland Security because of the death of the longest-serving member in the Senate’s and Congress’ history, reformed Ku Klux Klan Democrat Robert Byrd. That left only 30 members on the panel, 17 of them Democrats of which Landrieu ranked 12th in seniority, with her being its most senior Democrat member without a subcommittee chairmanship (these are doled out only to members of the majority party).
Seniority only rarely does not determine who receives these slots, itself determined primarily by years on the panel, supplemented by consecutive years in the Senate and then total years in the Senate, conditioned by other rules about apportionment of leadership slots, such as that on one committee a senator can be chairman of the entire committee or of only one subcommittee on it. Although Landrieu ranks on this subcommittee now only fifth among Democrats in seniority, all living ahead of her already have chairmanships of other subcommittees.
Yet on an interim basis it was announced that Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who ranks 14th overall among Democrats and sixth on the subcommittee, would act as chairman for the remainder of the life of this Congress. Seniority’s violation was justified this time for two reasons. One, according to Democrat staffers, is that he would not have to relinquish major positions while she would if she got the job, as she already serves as chairwoman of another more minor committee and of a temporary committee, creating an inconvenient shuffling late in this Senate’s life. But given Landrieu’s reaction, that didn’t seem to concern her much. She appeared quite willing to make this tradeoff.
The other reason was forwarded by Lautenberg, who said when he returned to the Senate in 2003 after retiring in 2001 he wanted his seniority to be treated in a consecutive fashion, whose 26 years would give him more than Landrieu and that he got that commitment from leaders. Whether that’s true or whether that’s been followed on his other 10 committee slots is hard to determine. It also means that the subcommittee still would be headed by the oldest senator in the body, as Byrd had that distinction now belonging to Lautenberg in his mid-eighties, over 35 years Landrieu’s senior and himself not in good health fighting cancer. It begs the question why Lautenberg would be put there, although he has said he is now cancer free.
Lautenberg also expanded upon the real, not admitted reason why he jumped Landrieu in the queue: because he is a reliable liberal vote who bailed out the party under questionable circumstances. He came back after retirement because scandal had enveloped the other Democrat New Jersey senator at a point too late to remove the other guy from the 2002 election ballot. However, the Democrats who controlled New Jersey including its Supreme Court with its cooperation were allowed to ignore the law and put Lautenberg on the ballot instead. Only Lautenberg would have worked as a winnable candidate as only five weeks remained before the election, and he did win.
Since then, Lautenberg has continued as one of the most liberal senators (American Conservative Union lifetime voting score where 0 is most liberal of 4.76) while Landrieu is much less reliably liberal (lifetime 22.65 where 100 is most conservative). Although acting as the 60th and decisive vote (with inducement) to impose a ruinous health care insurance system on the country that will cost more with poorer results, Landrieu does stray off the reservation, such as with her recent criticism of the ideologically-driven Pres. Barack Obama decision to halt deepwater offshore drilling, too often. This reinforces the rule followed by the liberals who lead the Democrats regarding their members: you’re either always with us and reap power and privilege, or you are to be used strategically and be thrown table scraps from time to time.
This incident reminds Landrieu of that, but she is craven enough to accept this bargain even if she pipes up about its disadvantages from time to time. Operating in this fashion is the only way Democrats can keep power nationally because they are at odds with the majority of Americans’ beliefs and unable to persuade them otherwise. Thus, they cull enough votes from impure liberals like Landrieu to supplement the solid pure base to win for the liberal agenda, having to tolerate the impure because they are the only kind of liberal that can get elected from their various states to give them a majority.
Landrieu and other submit to this because it’s the only way they can get power by having their party get it (although with a majority and allowed to pursue liberalism, this always puts the party in deep electoral trouble within a short period of time, such as at the present). And this was just another occasion for the leaders to remind her of that, that despite her begging, she won’t get their scraps this time and needs to go back and lie in the corner. With that, however, they send out another message that they’d rather not to the people of Louisiana – why settle for a senator treated as second class and with reduced influence in her own party when the election of a conservative Republican would produce somebody prized by and influential in the GOP?