One of life's little ironies played itself out in the United States Senate these past few days. Let us return to 2005. Then Majority Leader William H. (Bill) Frist, M.D. (R-TN) threatened a rules change which would have made confirmations subject to an up-or-down vote. Analysts such as Mike Hammond, former Counsel to the Senate Steering Committee (the caucus of conservative Senators) argued that if Senate Rule 22 were amended for confirmation votes it well could carry over into the legislative arena and end the filibuster. Frist was hesitant and waited too long. Senator John S. McCain (R-AZ), who was no great friend of the Majority Leader, pulled the rug out from him by putting together the Gang of 14. Because of that move Rule 22 was preserved. According to Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WVA) the Senate, indeed the Republic itself, was saved.
Early in 2005 Frist had told me that he would not run for the Presidency unless he achieved real reform and could run on that record. With the end of what was called the "nuclear option," Frist failed to achieve major reform in the Senate. True to his word, he headed home. Frist is a friend. I regard him as one of the finest Christians ever to have graced that office. But he was not an experienced leader. He was too cautious.
All during the 109th Congress Frist was frustrated. He had 55 Republican Senators. Yet because of the need to get 60 votes to avoid a filibuster, the Democrats were more in control than Frist or the Republicans. They played the game brilliantly, especially with the help of the media. Very little was accomplished in that Congress. The tax cuts are not permanent. There was no entitlement reform. Most appropriations bills, although passed by the House, died in the Senate.