Paul  Weyrich

In 1974 the late Senator Carl T. Curtis (R-NE) and Senator James A. McClure (R-ID), after a lunch with another staffer and yours truly, agreed to constitute what they called the Senate Steering Committee (SSC). They took a leaf from the successful Republican Study Committee. The idea was to come up with a caucus of conservative Senators. Curtis was elected Chairman after the first meeting of 14 Senators in his office. After Curtis was elected Chairman of the Senate GOP Conference, he left the SSC in favor of McClure. McClure ran the Committee as Curtis had in mind for the next five years, until he was elected as Chairman of the GOP Policy Committee. After that Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) took over the helm. McClure had run the SSC as a true caucus. He proposed amendments to bills, he proposed filibusters; he directed the staff to put "holds" on bills; sometimes he proposed alternative bills.

Helms changed the nature of the SSC. He brought in cabinet members of the brand new Reagan Administration. When he had exhausted them he turned to outside personalities. Senators loved it but they did not have strategy sessions. Staff ended up doing what Senators had done under Curtis and McClure. Finally, after the longest tenure in SSC history, Helms stepped down and Senator Malcolm Wallop (R-WY) succeeded him .He brought the SSC back to its original objectives, although staff, such as Jade West and Mike Hammond, ended up doing more of the work than Senators did. Only Wallop himself pursued the sort of strategy which Curtis had in mind.

Over the years the SSC bobbed and weaved back and forth, sometime more effective, sometime less. Then four years ago, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) became Chairman and he definitely brought the SSC back to its original objectives. His making Ed Corrigan Executive Director clearly made the SSC more effective. Then when Senator James DeMint (R-SC) became Chairman Senators with whom I spoke expressed anxiety that DeMint would not be forceful and effective. To the pleasure of Senators, he retained Corrigan and the two of them have brought the SSC to new heights. Of course, establishment Senators do not appreciate what DeMint has done - even when DeMint offered an amendment to delete an earmark of Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) which gives $3.5 million to the AFL-CIO, which targets Senators such DeMint for defeat. Specter complained that some Senators constitute an internal firing squad. The amendment, by the way, easily was defeated.

Paul Weyrich

Paul M. Weyrich is the late Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation.
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