Wamp’s Bad Vote
Don't count on the Tennessee Republican when the chips are down.


Representative Zach Wamp apparently has a short memory. He was elected to Congress in 1994, and has already forgotten why he came to Washington.

Back then Wamp ran as a conservative, with some silly populist ideas like paying members of Congress the same as a lieutenant colonel and making them live in officer housing, according to The Almanac of American Politics. Now, Wamp has grown in office and instead advocates silly establishment ideas, like instituting new “paygo” rules that would make it almost impossible to extend the Bush tax cuts.

Wamp was one of eleven Republican congressmen who recently defected on a vote that narrowly beat back such rules in the House. But the issue is very much alive as Senate moderates appear ready to go to the mat for paygo.

Some of the defectors in the House were understandable and predictable, such as Rep. Jim Greenwood who represents a liberal district in Pennsylvania. But what’s Zach Wamp’s excuse for working to sabotage a key part of the Bush agenda? Bush won Wamp’s conservative Tennessee district by handily in 2000, according to the Almanac. In 2002, Wamp himself won by a 2-to-1 margin, outspending his hapless Democratic opponent by $644,166 to $35,550.

In other words, Wamp has plenty of leeway to resist bad, but superficially attractive ideas pushed by establishment editorial pages. But he apparently can’t manage it. Zach Wamp is a perfect target for a conservative primary challenge down the road. Or if, as expected, he tries to run for Senate in 2006, conservatives should work to deny him the promotion–the Senate has enough timid and conventional Republicans as it is.

His paygo vote, the latest in a long line of his surrenders, should make him, in political terms, a marked man. Republican pointlessness, your name is Wamp.