August 17, 1995 in Nation/World

Another Blow For Demos Bradley’s Retirement Opens Doors For Gop In Senate

Jill Lawrence Associated Press
 

Sen. Bill Bradley’s sudden retirement announcement not only increases the likelihood that Democrats will remain a Senate minority next year - it also improves Republican chances of reaching the magic number of 60.

That’s how many votes it takes to end a filibuster - the main parliamentary weapon available to Senate Democrats as they try to stall and temper Republican drives to cut social spending, taxes and government regulation.

Bradley was the sixth Democrat to decide against seeking re-election, and may not be the last. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I., a six-term veteran who is 76 and has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, is considered likely to retire. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., is planning to announce a decision one way or the other by fall.

They are the last two in doubt. “We will not have any other surprises,” said Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Democrats currently are down 54-46 after post-election defections by two senators who had run and won as Democrats: Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado and Richard Shelby of Alabama. Only one Republican, Hank Brown of Colorado, has announced retirement plans.

Kerrey said he was confident New Jersey would send another Democrat to the Senate. But the National Republican Senatorial Committee smelled blood and pledged to spend the maximum $710,000 permitted in pursuit of the seat.

“I’m certain that we can beat any Democrat that steps forward,” said NRSC chairman Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y. He called Bradley’s retirement a golden opportunity in New Jersey for the GOP, which already has a popular statewide officeholder in Gov. Christie Whitman.

Democratic senators are retiring in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska and Illinois as well as New Jersey. Many of the states have become increasingly conservative and Republican, and will be hard to keep in the Democratic column. Georgia would be among them if Nunn forgoes a race.

Though they are in the minority, Senate Democrats retain some clout as a result of Senate rules that require supermajorities to cut off debate and approve constitutional amendments. Further erosion could rob them of the limited impact they still have.

This year Senate Democrats helped defeat the GOP-sponsored balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. They have also managed to stall some bills and reshape others by denying Republicans the 60 votes they need for cloture, or ending debate so action can be taken.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., gave his view of Democrats’ achievements just before the August recess.

“Democrats have made a real effort to try to keep bad legislation from becoming law,” he said. “We succeeded in stopping … a bad law on reg reform. We succeeded in stopping a balanced budget bill that in our view was a real problem for this country. We succeeded in stopping a State Department authorization bill that would have shut down our foreign policymaking in many respects. We succeeded in shutting down a welfare bill that in our view was more a home-alone bill (for children) than it was welfare reform.”

Daschle predicted Wednesday after Bradley’s announcement that people in New Jersey and elsewhere “will reject the radical policies of the new Republican majority and return the Senate to Democratic control” next year.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: BRADLEY TO RETIRE Who: Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., 1970s New Jersey basketball hero who once seemed an odds-on favorite to win a Democratic presidential nomination. What: Announced he will not seek re-election in 1996: Why: Bradley, 52, has been telling colleagues for months that he was frustrated with the Senate and his own inability to get anything done. “We live in a time when on a basic level politics is broken,” Bradley said, placing the blame on both parties. “In growing numbers people have lost faith in the political process and don’t see how it can help their threatened economic circumstances.” What’s next: Bradley did not comment on speculation he might challenge President Clinton in next year’s Democratic presidential primaries. A congressional source said the senator has no such plans, although he hasn’t ruled out an independent presidential bid next year. His finance chairman, Ted Wells, said he is being pressured to run for president in 2000.

This sidebar appeared with the story: BRADLEY TO RETIRE Who: Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., 1970s New Jersey basketball hero who once seemed an odds-on favorite to win a Democratic presidential nomination. What: Announced he will not seek re-election in 1996: Why: Bradley, 52, has been telling colleagues for months that he was frustrated with the Senate and his own inability to get anything done. “We live in a time when on a basic level politics is broken,” Bradley said, placing the blame on both parties. “In growing numbers people have lost faith in the political process and don’t see how it can help their threatened economic circumstances.” What’s next: Bradley did not comment on speculation he might challenge President Clinton in next year’s Democratic presidential primaries. A congressional source said the senator has no such plans, although he hasn’t ruled out an independent presidential bid next year. His finance chairman, Ted Wells, said he is being pressured to run for president in 2000.


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