FMA Fails

I’m struck by one thing on the list of who voted how on cloture on the FMA. The Republicans voting against cloture were Campbell, Chafee, Collins, McCain, Snowe, and Sununu.

Campbell’s an odd duck. McCain is a funny combination of highly principled and incredibly self-important, devoted to his public standing as a contrarian, Republican who opposes Bush whenever possible. Snowe, Collins, and Chafee are the usual suspects– Jeffords Republicans. Sununu and McCain are the only fiscal conservatives in the bunch, and McCain tilts left on lots of non-budgetary items. Three cheers for John Sununu Jr., a fiscal conservative, spending-cutter, free-trader, Social Security reformer who voted against the FMA.

It’s disappointing to libertarians that it’s so rare to see positions like Sununu’s. We intermittently get excited about some Republican who claims to be a fiscal conservative and a social liberal; but, almost inevitably, their fiscal conservatism disappears. Much as we wish otherwise, and much as we would like to believe that a drive for intellectual consistency will push people to be consistent anti-statists, the most consistent free-marketeers in Congress tend to be real social conservatives. The social liberals tend to be wet at best on economic questions. (Of course, there are lots of social conservatives who are also wet on economic and fiscal issues.) This isn’t as true in the commentariat as in Congress, and isn’t equally true on all “social” issues; free-market conservatives are a lot more likely to be drug-legalizers than to be pro-choice, and some free-market conservatives are pretty hardcore constitutionalist-civil libertarians on questions like criminal procedure and federal criminal law. But, in office, the free marketeer/ social conservative correlation is (from our perspective) unpleasantly high.

I’m enough of a believer in the long-term rationality of the parties as vote-seekers to think that this must be due to the underlying preferenes of voters. No matter how many people tell pollsters that they like social liberalism/ fiscal conservatism, there just aren’t many votes to be had at that particular intersection. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that Sununu is from my homestate; maybe the political culture I was surrounded by when I was growing up is pretty idiosyncratic.

Hmm. Hadn’t meant to write a glum post; I’d meant to write a “Yay John Sununu!” post. Anyway, Yay John Sununu.


According to Andrew Sullivan, New Hampshire’s other fiscally conservatie Republican Senator, Judd Gregg, planned to vote against the FMA though he voted in favor of cloture. The same goes for McCain sidekick Chuck Hagel and usual suspect Arlen Specter.

See also the post-mortem from FMA supporter [whoops– see below] Ramesh Ponnuru. I think Ponnuru is right that Frist badly mishandled this (though of course that doesn’t disappoint me nearly as much as it does him).

Whoops. Ponnuru never endorsed the FMA, though he did endorse the Hatch proposal. He’s been careful to talk about federalism and about what he took to be misunderstandings of the FMA without necessarily supporting the latter. He discusses these things here .

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