Freed from the pressures of being the majority and from the heavy hand of former leaders including retired representative Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), many back-bench Republicans are showing themselves to be more moderate than their conservative leadership and increasingly mindful of shifting voter sentiment. The closest vote last week -- Friday's push to require the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare -- pulled 24 Republicans. The Democrats' homeland security bill attracted 68 Republicans, the minimum wage increase 82.
Division among Republicans is showing because Democrats are finally able to spotlight them with legislation of their choosing, now that they are in control of Congress.
Democrats didn't create the divisions among Republicans. They've always been there. But past strong-arming from DeLay in the House and from a then popular President Bush in the White House (and his emissary of evil Karl Rove) had managed to whip the Republicans into a legislative monolith. That is now gone. And Democrats deserve some credit for pulling down the monolith.
From 2004 to 2006, Democrats showed incredible unity in comparison with the past, while Republicans chose corruption and unpopular positions on issues. It all began with Bush's failure to unify the country after his narrow re-election. Then came the Schiavo case, the failure of Social Security reform, deterioration of the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the Dubai ports deal, Bob Ney, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and Mark Foley, to name a few Republican failures.
The public soundly rejected Bush and his party in the 2006 election, delivering Congress to the Democrats. But Bush continues to defy the will of the people on the most important issue: Iraq. He plans to send more troops when the public wants him to start withdrawing. That is driving down his popularity, and driving away his allies in Congress. And that's what is ultimately behind stories like the one in the Post.