Vermont’s U.S. Senators to lose power

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(Host) When the Republicans take charge in the U.S. Senate, it will diminish the power of Vermont’s two U.S. Senators.

Independent Senator James Jeffords threw the balance of power over to Democrats when he left the Republican Party 18 months ago. Because the Republicans regained control of the Senate on Tuesday night, Jeffords will lose his chairmanship of the Senate Environment Committee.

Jeffords says he has no regrets about leaving the Republicans and he’s convinced his switch was in the best interests of the country:

(Jeffords) “The absolute concern and fear of the people of the Republican takeover that existed at that time came through loud and clear. And when I go around the country, the strong feelings that people expressed to me over their fears – now those fears are coming back in many cases. We’re just going to have to demonstrate that those of us that are the moderates, by organizing to give some security to people, that the conservatives are not going to run rampant over important issues like education and the environment.”

(Host) Senator Leahy will also leave his post as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy was a Republican target because the committee rejected two conservative judges. Leahy says President Bush campaigned hard to get a House and Senate that will support his agenda.

(Leahy) “And he won on that. You got to hand it to President Bush. He said, I don’t want people raising questions on my agenda; I don’t want people raising questions on my judges, or how we handle civil liberties or anything else; I want a Congress that will do what I tell them to. And as far as just raw political things are concerned, the president won on that. He’ll be able to pack the court. He’ll be able, at least in the short run, to do whatever he wants.”

(Host) Leahy says he expects there will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court within the next two years. As a ranking Democrat on the committee, Leahy says he’ll continue to argue against conservative ideologues on the federal judiciary.

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