My SDP colleague Quentin Riggins has been struggling with CCK about the Energy Bill and whose fault it was that it didn't pass last time. If Quentin is right, and it seems clear that he is, then it is largely Daschle's fault that the Bill didn't pass last year. If CCK is right, the Republicans could have had a bill long before now. What is really at stake here is how much credit to give the Thune win/Daschle defeat.
But I submit that this piece by Charles Babington and Justin Blum in Saturday's Washington Post is dispositive of the question.
After years of partisan impasses and legislative failures, Congress in a matter of hours yesterday passed or advanced three far-reaching bills that will allocate billions of dollars and set new policies for guns, roads and energy.
The measures sent to President Bush for his signature will grant $14.5 billion in tax breaks for energy-related matters and devote $286 billion to transportation programs, including 6,000 local projects, often called "pork barrel" spending. The Senate also passed a bill to protect firearms manufacturers and dealers from various lawsuits. The House is poised to pass it this fall.
Combined with the Central American Free Trade Agreement that Congress approved Thursday, the measures constitute significant victories for Bush and GOP congressional leaders, who have been frustrated by Democrats in some areas such as Social Security.
Apart from the question of what role Daschle and Thune personally played in this matter, consider two undeniable political facts:
First: Much of this legislation is very generous to South Dakota.
Second: None of it passed until Daschle had been replaced by Republicans.
The Republican's net gain of three other seats obviously helped, but neither friend nor foe of Daschle will deny that his influence and skill were extraordinary. For better or worse the Daschle Democrats had an agenda that centered almost exclusively on obstruction. By defeating Daschle, Thune did more than anyone else to break the logjam. That's an achievement that our colleagues in the asinusphere (from equus asinus, or donkey), cannot argue away.