PUT NOT YOUR FAITH IN MODERATE REPUBLICANS?….Tapped and Matt Yglesias are both skeptical that moderate Republicans will have much success in actually moderating the Republican agenda this term. Considering their abysmal track record at this, I have to agree.

On the other hand, as this LA Times piece points out today, moderate Republicans have cut the tax bill in half and have also joined with Democrats to defeat the Arctic drilling proposal. What’s more, tort reform is in trouble and, as this article implies, a compromise proposal on smallpox vaccinations probably would have passed with moderate Republican support if the GOP leadership had allowed it to come to a vote. So maybe the moderates really are starting to feel their oats.

(As an aside, the Republican smallpox proposal would have paid $50,000 per year in lost wages up to a maximum of $262,100. The Democratic proposal would have paid $75,000 per year with no cap. This really doesn’t seem like a helluva compromise for the Republicans to make, does it? How many people are they expecting to keel over from this vaccine, anyway?)

The Times attributes the success of the moderate Republicans to three factors: (a) moderate Democrats are really, really pissed off after Bush campaigned vigorously against them in 2002, so Democratic solidarity is at an all-time high, (b) George Bush, the salesman-in-chief, is too busy with Iraq to schmooze congressmen, and (c) Bill Frist’s leadership team is still finding its legs. On the third point, however, you really need to consider the source:

“The problem is less at the White House than it is here,” said Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, who stepped down as GOP leader in December under fire for racially tinged remarks. “We’re the ones who cast the vote.”

He would feel that way, wouldn’t he?

UPDATE: More info on the smallpox thing. The Bush adminstration wants to innoculate 450,000 health workers, and this article says that vaccinations are expected to cause “one to two deaths and several dozen to a hundred serious illnesses per million.” Both the Republican and Democratic proposals treat death the same, so the only difference is in compensation for illness.

Assume the high figure of one hundred illnesses per million. This means we’d expect 45 people to get ill out of 450,000. Under the GOP proposal, this would cost $11.8 million. The cost of the Democratic proposal is harder to calculate, but let’s figure that the average length of a payout for a smallpox illness is 10 years (for some it would be one year, for others it might be 50). The total cost would then be $33.7 million. Are they really holding up this entire program because they’re quibbling over a difference of ? at most ? $22 million?

And there’s more: according to this AP report, “the Democrats would guarantee the money, while the Republican bill would force this program to compete for funding each year.” Isn’t that great? The Republican proposal would compensate people, but every year it might decide to stop. That’s what’s called compassionate conservatism, folks.