Senator's switch to Independent may lend a hand to environmental efforts

Breaking a 50-50 tie in the previously Republican-controlled Senate, a Vermont Senator's decision to become Independent will send ripples of changes into environmental policy.

May 25, 2001—Breaking a 50-50 tie in the previously Republican-controlled Senate, a Vermont Senator's decision to become Independent will send ripples of changes into environmental policy.

Democrats now have the majority they need to take control of Senate committees for the first time since 1994. Until now, Republicans were in charge of the Senate because of the tie-breaking vote held by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Democrats had courted Jeffords over the last few weeks, offering him the chairmanship of the Environment and Public Works Committee and the retention of his seat on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, according to a report from MSNBC.

But in a statement about his decision, he said that the switch was something he had been moving towards for a long time.

Jeffords cited growing differences with the Republican Party and President George W. Bush in several key areas.

"Looking ahead, I can see more and more instances where I will disagree with the President on very fundamental issues: the issues of choice, the direction of the judiciary, tax and spending decisions, missile defense, energy and the environment, and a host of other issues, large and small," Jeffords said in a statement Thursday.

He said he would make the move formal "once the conference report on the tax bill is sent to the president. I gave my word to the president that I would not intercept or try to intervene in the signing of that bill."

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