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As the Senate Turns

Although the House is the source of the majority of Capitol Hill drama these days, it doesn't have a monopoly. The Senate also contributes when it can; there have been a couple of stories on that front this week.

To start, it remains unclear exactly what is going on with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ). Has she really moved sharply rightward from her days as an outspoken Green Party activist? Is she sick and tired of the Senate and positioning herself for a lucrative post-politics career as a Fox commentator? Has she concluded that she's more reelectable as an independent than as a member of one of the major parties? If the answer to the latter question is "yes," then she is almost certainly wrong about that. As a Democrat, she would likely lose the primary, whereas as an independent, she would likely lose in the general. Incidentally, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), who announced earlier this week that he is running for the seat, brought in 27,000 donations totaling $1 million in his first day as a U.S. Senate candidate. That's a record for the first day of a campaign in Arizona, both in number of donations and total haul.

Anyhow, the point is that if Sinema wants to keep her job, the most promising lane available to her is to run as a Republican. Her odds still wouldn't be great, since Republicans generally prefer to vote for actual Republicans, but they would be better than with any of the alternatives. We're not the only ones who have noticed that; Sen. John Thune (R-SD) also thinks Sinema would be best positioned for reelection as a Republican, and so is trying to persuade the Senator to formally join the Senate Republican Conference. That said, while Thune is among Sinema's closest friends in the Senate, he did not say the Republican Party would help her win the Arizona Republican primary in 2024, or even that he would support her in said primary. She would be a fool not to get very firm commitments on those points before switching.

Meanwhile, one of Thune's and Sinema's newest colleagues has hit the ground running when it comes to competing with Ted Cruz for the title of "most unpopular person in the Senate." That would be Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-MO), who has been in office for less than 30 days. As we have noted many, many times, it takes a good 15-20 years to get real power in the Senate, in the form of plum committee assignments. Schmitt is clearly not an reader, because he is pushing to be put on the Senate Judiciary Committee RIGHT NOW. That is one of the most desirable assignments in the Senate, not only because it's interesting, but also because it's high profile due to its work approving judges.

There are a few problems with Schmitt's plan, however. First, as noted, he has no right to such a desirable posting. Second, no state is supposed to be represented twice on a committee, and Josh Hawley (R-MO) is already on Judiciary (meaning a special waiver would be needed). Third, the number of seats on the Committee is limited, and some other Republican would have to surrender a seat that they have earned in order to accommodate Schmitt. None of them wants to do so, and so Schmitt—who is clearly a charming fellow—has been calling two of the Republican members of the Committee (Thom Tillis, NC, and Marsha Blackburn, TN) to ask them to step down and to explain that he's really better suited to the job than they are since he has a law degree and they don't.

For these reasons, we think it is highly improbable that Schmitt gets what he wants. Punched in the nose, on the other hand? Maybe. (Z)

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