Presidents of both parties have often overplayed their efforts to strong-arm a member of Congress. It’s often not effective. In Mr. Shelby’s case, it even accelerated his switch to the Republican Party.
.. Mr. Sullivan told The Alaska Dispatch News that Mr. Zinke, whose department controls considerable resources in Alaska, had phoned both senators to let them know the state’s relationship with the Trump administration had been put in jeopardy by Ms. Murkowski’s vote. Howls of outrage followed, along with accusations of White House extortion.
.. Whether the phone calls were misinterpreted or not, it was certainly a ham-handed effort. Every decision the administration now makes in regard to Alaska will be interpreted through the lens of the health care dispute and seen as some kind of punishment of innocent residents if the state suffers.
.. Not to mention the fact that Mr. Zinke was put in the position of challenging a lawmaker who oversees his budget and policy programs. Ms. Murkowski is the chairwoman of both the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Interior Department. She arguably has more control over some aspects of the agency than the secretary has.
.. “In my experience, it is not wise for a cabinet secretary to bully the person who controls his purse strings,” said David Hayes, the former deputy secretary of the interior during the Obama administration, who has worked closely with Ms. Murkowski. “It’s very curious: He seems to have the relationship backward. In many respects, she is his boss.”.. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve seldom seen threats to be very effective,” said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri... In fact, the opposite tack has usually proved more effective, with lawmakers more likely to bend when offered benefits and goodies for their states. Carrots have produced more congressional wins than sticks... Mr. Shelby said that when the Clinton White House began discussing the job moves, he returned home and held a news conference to announce that “my vote is not for sale or lease to anybody, because it belongs to the people of Alabama.”
“Wow,” he said, “the people rallied around me.”
.. He, too, suffered a White House snub in 2001 when he was not invited to a Rose Garden ceremony to celebrate the teacher of the year — a Vermonter. The White House and its allies also made noises about rejiggering the New England Dairy Compact, a major Vermont issue.
.. Like Mr. Shelby, Mr. Jeffords ultimately left his party and stunned Washington by becoming an independent in May 2001, handing control of the Senate to the Democrats for most of the first two years of President George W. Bush’s term.
.. So if there is a lesson to be drawn from the experiences of Senators Shelby and Jeffords, it’s that too much hardball from the White House can sometimes lead a lawmaker to decide to play for the other team.