Will Palin Be 'The Tiebreaker' Next Year?
In the wake of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's coming-out party at the Republican National Convention, GOP campaign strategists on the Hill are hoping to capitalize on the vice presidential nominee's newfound popularity with the party base to boost their coffers for November.
On Saturday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out an email solicitiation under the name of Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), the committee's vice chairman, titled "Palin's The Tiebreaker." It suggested that Republican voters should back the party's Senate candidates and presidential ticket. so Palin can be on hand to break any tie votes.
"Sarah's speech rocked the house!" Hatch wrote, referring to Palin's well-received convention address. "She took on Obama and a liberal media that fear her message of conservative reform. 37 million Americans watched this speech, and I bet they liked what they saw.
"Palin is also an important part of our firewall. You see, one of the official duties of our Vice President is to break tie votes in the U.S. Senate. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen! In fact, Bill Clinton needed then Vice President Al Gore's tiebreaking vote twice to pass the last gas tax increase."
For all the debate over John McCain's choice of Palin as his running mate and whether she is qualified for the job, there has been little discussion of what the vice president actually does beyond potentially replacing the president if he dies or is incapacitated. As Hatch points out, the VP is indeed the Senate President, a title that brings little actual responsibility beyond the aforementioned tiebreaking votes.
How often does this happen? Vice President Cheney has broken ties eight times during the Bush administration, most recently on a March procedural vote on the Alternative Minimum Tax. Gore broke four ties in the eight years he served as vice president.
Of course, tie votes happen more often when the Senate is closely divided (the chamber was actually split 50-50 for a portion of Bush's first term). But while the chamber is at 51-49 now, few election observers expect it to be that close in the 111th Congress. Democrats are widely expected to pick up at least a handful of seats, and the real question is whether there's any chance their majority might grow to 60 next year.
"I have been telling you that the Senate is the firewall that protects our country from irresponsible Democrat legislation, and now is your time to act," Hatch wrote. "With just 60 days until Election Day, we must act quickly to make sure liberals don't get the 60 Senate seats required to break our Senate firewall."
Hatch and the NRSC hope that Republicans who love Palin will now open their checkbooks for the party's Senate candidates. But if the Senate elections break as they're currently forecasted, Palin's opportunities as vice president to break some ties might be few and far between.
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