Prime-Time Shaheen
03-26-2009
Once again, I managed to stumble across Senator Jeanne Shaheen, while surfing the evening cable news shows. This time, Senator Shaheen was doing a live-shot interview from the Capitol with Rachel Maddow. The MSNBC host has been making periodic reference on her show to a group of “conservadems,” moderate Democrats led by Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, who are working together to promote centrist policy positions on a variety of Obama Administration agenda items. Shaheen has previously been identified as part of this group of approximately 15 legislators.
 
I thought Shaheen actually did a fine job last night, in the face of Maddow’s aggressive, but respectful questioning. Maddow has been pushing a particular line of argument popular among progressives on the left for several weeks now. It is the idea that because Republicans seem primarily interested in obstructing President Obama’s pursuit of his policy agenda, Democrats in the Senate should use budget reconciliation rules (requiring 51 votes, rather than the 60 needed for cloture) to essentially ram Obama’s legislative agenda through Congress.
 
Shaheen’s comments last night were more firmly rooted in Obama’s campaign rhetoric about the need for greater bipartisanship, and she made several references to her own experience with the appropriations process as governor. Shaheen was also able to deflect questions about shifting to the reconciliation process by noting that she is still learning the arcane rules and traditions of the Senate. Since the senator is a newcomer to the chamber, my guess is she won’t bear the brunt of any unhappiness within the party about this group’s activities. But my sense is that with a bit more experience under her belt (and especially reelection), we’ll be seeing a lot more of Senator Shaheen as an active player right in the thick of the legislative mix.


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