Wednesday, Apr. 29, 2009

Jim Jeffords, 2001

An open critic of the GOP's 1994 "Contract with America" and one of only five Senate Republicans to vote against both articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton in 1999, Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party in 2001. By becoming the only independent in the Senate, he threw the chamber's carefully calibrated balance of power out of whack, giving the Democrats a 50-49 edge — and thereby granting them all the committee chairmanships and control of the legislative calendar and agenda. At the time, Arlen Specter said Jeffords' defection was "like a death in the family," and noted that the loss ought to prompt the GOP to move toward the center.