Freshman Republican Rep. Dave Reichert (WA-8) has tried to carve a reputation for himself as a strong and independent leader by strategically casting a handful of well placed votes in opposition to the GOP leadership… mostly when it doesn’t count. But his role in the recent controversy over oil drilling in the pristine Alaska National Wildlife Refuge shows exactly how calculated and unprincipled these votes have been.
After making a big show earlier this year of opposing drilling in ANWR, Reichert rolled over when it really mattered, voting for the Defense Spending bill and its cynical provision without a peep of opposition. Meanwhile, Sen. Maria Cantwell staked her reputation — and perhaps her career — on threatening a filibuster… and successfully following through.
Cantwell deserves all the credit she’s getting for staring down Alaska’s powerful and vindictive Sen. Ted Stevens.
“This vote today is a tribute to her tenacity and skill,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “She stood up to a powerful member of the Senate. Today was a big win.”
Reid made Cantwell the Senate Democrats’ energy point-person in September, setting into motion Wednesday’s confrontation.
But as much credit as Cantwell deserves for her bold leadership in orchestrating this dramatic filibuster, Reichert deserves at least as much blame for weakly caving in to his party’s cynical parliamentary procedure. He cannot argue that nothing could be done to block the provision — something could be done, and Cantwell did it. The difference is, Cantwell really is a defender of the environment, whereas Reichert only gives it lip service.
In defending his previous stance, Reichert explained that phone calls and emails from constituents were overwhelmingly opposed to drilling in ANWR:
“They were running about 95 percent in favor of not drilling. You have to listen to the people you represent.”
But when push came to shove, it wasn’t “the people” he listened to.
Reichert’s district has been steadily trending Democrat, putting him on everybody’s short list of vulnerable Republicans… and I can’t wait for this issue to pop up during the 2006 campaign. What’s he going to tell the overwhelming majority of constituents who oppose drilling in ANWR? “I voted against drilling before I voted for it”…?
Reichert flip-flopped on ANWR, and he’s going to pay for it.
[Cross-posted to Daily Kos.]