Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Closing up shop

Well, the GOP House ousted Mike Lange as Majority Leader prior to adjourning.

Over at MOTTO, Jeff Mangan takes note of the fact that Democratic legislators were left out of the compromise process, and suggests:

The entire democratic caucus should reach out to the moderate republicans in both the Senate and the House, as well as the republican leadership (including Sales and Stapleton) and develop a Legislative package on the tax issues. Provide the cover, develop a tax proposal that looks a bit more like the 3rd floor of the Capital than the 2nd.

We couldn't agree more. The key here is including Sales and Stapleton -- bypassing leadership is a formula for a more fractured legislature than we already have. While Sales is correct that the final budget spends too much, one hopes that everything gets wrapped up peacefully today and that tomorrow this post will be dated.

While Republicans should be grateful for all of Lange's hard work this session, it is clear that it was time for him to move on (and that he is not perhaps the best person to move on to challenge Baucus.) Dennis Himmelberger is a good choice -- moderate in tone, devoted to decorum and proper procedures, and yet not one of the 13 dealmakers. And let's not forget that a "moderate" in the Montana Republican party is pretty conservative.

Let's hope that Lange's supporters see the importance of standing together now as a party, just as the House Republicans who didn't vote for Lange stood with him on many party-line votes during this tough session. Now was the time to make the change, but not before.

There will be interim committee and studies, and possibly future special sessions. Sales and Himmelberger will complement each other in any work that remains or that newly arises.

Beyond that, this vote has a symbolic value as a move toward a realignment of both style and substance in the Montana Republican party. For Sales to be reaffirmed as Speaker and for him to support the change to Himmelberger was key. It's a brand new day.

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