Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Senate Profiles: Lincoln Chafee

If Rhode Island is not the most liberal state in the Union, it has certainly elected the most liberal Republican to the United States Senate. Lincoln Chafee, the lone Republican to vote against the Iraq war, and a member of an increasingly small minority of the GOP that is liberal on issues such as abortion, civil rights, and the environment, is a remnant of the long gone days when "Republican" was not synonymous with "Right Wing".
Chafee's father, the late John Chafee, became a Rhode Island icon during his tenure in the Senate; he probably has a great deal to do with his son's insistence to remain Republican, despite his tendency to vote with Senate Democrats.
However, Chafee is not liberal on everything. In 2001, he voted in favor of the $1.35 trillion tax cuts over 11 years, despite voting against another $350 billion tax cuts proposed in 2003. In many ways, he is similar to other moderate to liberal Republicans such as Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, who generally support tax relief, but are more concerned about the large budget deficit that is being carried by the current administration.
Chafee is definitely the most outspoken of the liberal Republicans. Although he openly endorsed Bush in 2004, it was not President Bush, but rather, former President George H.W Bush. Chafee told reporters that he wrote in Bush Sr. rather than choose between Bush Jr. or John Kerry.
What irks liberals about Chafee is his reluctance to challenge the President on judicial nominations and especially, John Bolton's nomination to the United Nations. Many believe that Chafee, who sits on the foreign relations committee, was capable of blocking Bolton's nomination in committee. However, Chafee responded to the criticism by saying that he was "inclined to support the President's nominations".
Chafee could be facing a tough primary in 2006 when he asks for the votes of Republicans who could feel betrayed by his liberal positions.


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