Minnesota Gov. Ventura Appoints Independent To Finish Wellstone’s Term
Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura (I) yesterday named his longtime political adviser, Dean Barkley (I), to fill the Senate seat left vacant last month by the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.), the Washington Post reports. Barkley, who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate twice as an independent, has not indicated what party, if either, he will caucus with for the remainder of the congressional session, adding to the uncertainty about which party will control the Senate during the lame-duck session scheduled to begin Nov. 12 (Dewar, Washington Post, 11/5). Members of Congress have said that they will address a Medicare provider "giveback" bill during the session (California Healthline, 11/1). With the addition of Barkley, the Senate is split with 49 Republicans, 49 Democrats and two independents, one of whom, Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.), organizes with the Democrats (CongressDaily, 11/4). If Barkley opts not to caucus with either party, he would not receive any committee assignments. Committees are not expected to be a factor in the lame-duck session, however (Firestone, New York Times, 11/5). If Barkley chooses to caucus with Republicans, control of the Senate would shift to that party, and current Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) would become majority leader. However, there will not be enough time during the lame-duck session to reorganize the committee structure, the Los Angeles Times reports. Regardless of what Barkely decides to do, Congress will remain closely divided, making it likely that bipartisan agreements will be needed to pass any "substantial" legislation.
Barkley said, "I don't really care which party controls the U.S. Senate," adding, "I could care less whether it's Democrats or Republicans. What I care about is what I can do for the state of Minnesota, and I will use my position the best I can to forward that principle" (Anderson, Los Angeles Times, 11/5). He said he would talk with both parties and Jeffords. "I can get along with moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans," he added (CongressDaily, 11/4). Barkley, who was once a Democrat, said he "outgrew" the party. He also has criticized Republicans, calling their platform "anti-women, anti-gay, anti-choice" (Neuman, Los Angeles Times, 11/5). Given his libertarian views, Barley might be an opponent of President Bush's judicial nominees, the Wall Street Journal reports. However, he could be more likely to support the Bush administration on appropriations bills, which might "dominate" the lame-duck session, the Wall Street Journal reports (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 11/5). It remains unclear when the winner of today's election in Minnesota will replace Barkley (Los Angeles Times, 11/5).
Power in the Senate also may shift during the lame-duck session based on the outcome of Missouri's Senate race. Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.) was appointed to the Senate after her husband, Mel, was elected after his death two years ago. As a result, today's vote in Missouri is a special election to fill the remainder of the term, meaning the winner would begin serving immediately after the election results are certified. The race between Carnahan and opponent former Rep. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) is close, the Post reports. Should Talent win, the Senate could be split 50-50, with Vice President Dick Cheney breaking tie votes in favor of Republicans (Washington Post, 11/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.