In the House of Representatives, the minority mostly gets good at one thing: Losing votes. Those in the minority party play a small role in influencing legislation. But things are quite different in the Senate, where the minority can gum up the works much more effectively, as long as they stay organized.
And organizing appears to be a key strength of Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), the boyish second-term senator who leads the Democrats. In this Congress, Daschle has been able to block the balanced budget amendment and has made headway in tying campaign finance investigation funds to campaign finance reform legislation.
The soft-spoken South Dakotan won the leadership job by just one vote over Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd as the Democrats slipped into the minority after the 1994 elections.
At the time, many wondered whether the relatively junior senator, a protege of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, was up to the task. Daschle had never chaired a major committee, and had never managed a bill on the floor.
But his ability to withstand the GOP legislative onslaught in 1995 and rally his demoralized troops gained him the respect of his fellow Democrats. "Tom has done a very good job of developing consensus," said vanquished opponent Dodd.
Perhaps Daschle's preeminent achievement in the 104th Congress was his most unexpected: he drove Bob Dole out of the Senate.
Dole had planned to run his presidential campaign as the Senate's majority leader, but Daschle played hardball on the minimum wage bill, attaching its language to every major piece of legislation that came along and stalling them all.
Dole complained bitterly, but it was a classic legislative technique well applied. "Welcome to the U.S. Senate. Welcome to the U.S. Senate," Daschle told Dole, who had begun his Senate career before Daschle had even got out of college.
Daschle made it abundantly clear that Dole could expect nothing but more of the same, and in the end, Senator Dole became Citizen Bob, with nowhere to go but the White House or home.
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