Senator Evan Bayh‘s hasty cancellation of his re-election campaign a few weeks ago was timed in order to deprive Democratic voters of the ability to choose their own nominee to replace Bayh. No candidate was given enough time to gather sufficient signatures to enter a Democratic primary contest, and so the central committee of Indiana Democratic leaders will get to make bargains behind closed doors to determine who the Democratic nominee will be.
We can’t say for sure sure who that nominee will be until the Indiana Democratic leadership holds its meeting, but, given that Congressman Baron Hill has dropped out of the contest and given his endorsement to Bayh’s protege, Representative Brad Ellsworth, it’s a good idea for Indiana voters to start paying a great deal of attention to what Ellsworth is up to in the House of Representatives.
Not long after Congressman Ellsworth made his interest in Indiana’s Senate seat clear, he cast a vote that most rank and file Democrats wouldn’t like at all – if they knew about it. Ellsworth cast a vote for a renewal of George W. Bush’s Patriot Act, without any reforms of the law’s massive big government powers for spying against the American people at all. The roll call vote was obscured from scrutiny, however, as it was recorded merely as an assent to unspecified amendments to a Medicare reform bill. Who could have guessed what Brad Ellsworth was really voting for.
Some tacticians within the Democratic Party establishment may argue that what Representative Ellsworth did was necessary. They’ll point out that Ellsworth, a right wing Blue Dog Democrat, is attempting to gain support from Republicans as well as some Democrats so that he can get important, bipartisan legislation passed, thus helping his constituents.
The trouble with that argument is that there’s little evidence that Brad Ellsworth’s political allegiances with Republicans in Congress have enabled him to get important bipartisan legislation passed. For example, on the day after Ellsworth voted to extend a reform-free Patriot Act, he announced his introduction of H.R. 4680, the Jobs Momentum Act, which would create a tax credit designed to encourage job creation.
So, did the Ellsworth maneuver work out? Did he get Republican support for his jobs bill in return for opposing efforts to reform the Patriot Act? No, not one Republican member of Congress has cosponsored the Ellsworth jobs bill. In fact, Ellsworth hasn’t been able to gain any cosponsors for his legislation.
The habit of voting along with the Republican Party doesn’t seem to have made Brad Ellsworth a more successful member of Congress. Instead, it seems to have isolated Ellsworth from members of both the Democratic and the Republican parties.