Lesson for Trump: Hardball Against Senators Is a Game He Can Lose

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The recalcitrant senator kept crossing up the inexperienced new president on big-ticket legislation even though they represented the same party.

Frustrated and angry, the White House fought back, threatening retaliation both petty and portentous, eyeing federal jobs and programs in the state of the rebellious lawmaker to force obedience.

While this may sound like the current situation between President Trump and Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, over her refusal to back the party line on health care, it was actually 1993. The senator was Richard Shelby, then a Democrat of Alabama, and the president was Bill Clinton as he began his first term and found the conservative Mr. Shelby to be a real irritant.

Unhappy with Mr. Shelby’s commentary on the new president’s economic plan, the Clinton White House raised the prospect of shipping some NASA jobs from Huntsville, Ala., to the Johnson Space Center in Texas. The White House went so far as to limit Mr. Shelby to a single pass to a White House celebration of the University of Alabama’s 1992 national title football team — a brutal slap, in Crimson Tide terms.





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