Tim Chapman

The much vaunted Senate “Gang of 14” gained notoriety earlier this year when they combined forces to prevent the Senate from changing its rules. The Gang, a group of seven moderate Republicans and seven moderate Democrats, succeeded in thwarting the GOP leadership’s attempt to do away with the filibuster of judicial nominees.

The proposed rules change followed frequent Democratic filibustering of President Bush’s judicial nominees, and it was backed by most Senate Republicans as well as outside activists who had grown weary of Democratic obstruction. Consequently, the Gang’s successful stand enraged the Republican base and drew ire from different-minded Senate colleagues who saw the Gang’s efforts as showboating at the expense of a majority of their caucus.

However, the Gang became media darlings. Countless editorials praised their “moderation,” “sensibility” and “reverence for tradition.” Clearly the liberal media saw the Gang’s actions as a blow to conservatives who want to confirm judges dedicated to interpreting the constitution (in the mold of Scalia and Thomas).

To date, the Gang’s stand has turned out better than expected for those conservatives, though. The high court is now presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts and he has a new associate, Samuel Alito, while the Senate has been able to approve a raft of President Bush’s lower level nominees.

But now, the Gang -- especially the seven Republican members -- are making a high profile return to the spotlight, and this time the outcome could be much different.

Republican Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, John Warner, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Gordon Smith and Lincoln Chafee -- all original members of the Gang -- have been joined by John Sununu, Chuck Hagel and Dick Lugar to oppose the President on another high profile administration priority.

The President wants Congress to approve legislation drafted in the wake of the Hamdan Supreme Court decision (which required congressional sanctioning of the President’s military commissions program). The administration and the “Gang plus three” disagree over whether terrorists tried in military commissions should have access to the classified material used to prosecute them. The administration refuses to share this classified information with terrorists and their lawyers, as it could threaten national security. The Gang plus three insists it undermines the trial not to share it.

Tim Chapman

Tim Chapman is the Director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. and a contributing columnist to Townhall.com

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