Former Sen. Bob Dole visited the Capitol Tuesday. His brand of conservatism – leaning more toward pragmatism and compromise – may be gaining some ground amid the fiscal cliff standoff.
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While that effort ultimately proved in vain – the treaty was defeated by conservative Republicans – Mr. Dole’s appearance in some ways served as a timely symbol of the larger battle going on within the GOP.
The former GOP majority leader, who has recently been hospitalized, just so happened to visit at a time when his party is struggling with a sharp, public rift over the “fiscal cliff.” Lines have been drawn between traditional “establishment” members – call them Dole Republicans – who tend to be more pragmatic and inclined to compromise, and tea party types determined to hold the line on taxes and spending.
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Dole was a key player in Washington’s last big, bipartisan deficit-reduction deal: He helped construct the 1990 agreement in which President George H.W. Bush famously broke his “no new taxes” pledge in return for promised concessions from Democrats on spending and entitlement reform. That bill proved to be instrumental in reducing the deficit in coming years – though Mr. Bush never got credit, since he lost reelection to Bill Clinton, a fate conservatives have linked ever since to Bush’s tax heresy.