JAMES JEFFORDS Biography - Polititians


Biography » polititians » james jeffords


Name: James Merrill Jeffords                                                               
Born: 11 May 1934 Rutland, Vermont                                                         
James Merrill "Jim" Jeffords (born May 11, 1934) is a former U.S. Senator from             
Vermont. He served as a Republican until 2001, when he left the party to become             
an independent.                                                                             
Jeffords was born in Rutland, Vermont, the son of Marion Hausman and Olin                   
Jeffords, who was formerly Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court.                     
Jeffords holds an undergraduate degree from Yale University (1956) and a law               
degree from Harvard Law School (1962). After three years of active duty in the             
United States Navy (1956–1959), Jeffords served in the Naval Reserves until he           
retired as a Captain in 1990. Jeffords married his late wife, Elizabeth "Liz"               
Daley twice. Their first marriage was in 1961. In 1979 the couple divorced. On             
August 26, 1986, they married again, exactly 25 years after their first marriage.           
Liz Jeffords died on the morning of April 13, 2007 after a long struggle with               
ovarian cancer. Senator Jeffords and his wife had two children, Leonard and                 
Laura. Jeffords' residence is in Shrewsbury, Vermont.                                       
Jeffords entered politics in 1966, winning a seat in the Vermont State Senate.             
He followed that success in 1968 with a victory in the race for Vermont Attorney           
General. In 1974, he won Vermont's sole seat in the U.S. House of                           
Representatives, where he served for fourteen years and was the ranking                     
Republican member of the House Education and Labor Committee. In 1988, Jeffords             
was elected to the U.S. Senate, and was reelected in 1994 and 2000.                         
Jeffords' work in Congress focused on legislation involving education, job                 
training, and individuals with disabilities. In his later years in the Senate,             
his emphasis shifted somewhat, as Jeffords pushed several important pieces of               
environmental legislation through Congress. He was, together with Paul Simon,               
credited by Canadian Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, Force Commander of the             
United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) from 1993 to 1994, for               
actively lobbying the US administration into mounting a humanitarian mission to             
Rwanda during the Rwandan Genocide. According to Dallaires' book Shake Hands               
with the Devil, he "owe(s) a great debt of gratitude" to both senators.                     
Jeffords was one of the founders of the Congressional Solar Coalition and the               
Congressional Arts Caucus. Jeffords was frequently recognized for his                       
performance as a legislator, receiving Parenting magazine's "Legislator of the             
Year" award in 1999, and the Sierra Club's highest commendation in 2002.                   
On May 24, 2001, Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party, with which he had                 
always been affiliated, and announced his new status as an independent. Jeffords           
discussed this decision during his announcement that he was leaving the                     
Republican party. "I will make this change and will caucus with the Democrats               
for organizational purposes 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". The independent status of                   
Jeffords changed the Senate composition from 50-50 (with a Republican Vice                 
President, Dick Cheney, serving as President of the Senate to break tie votes)             
to 49 Republicans, 50 Democrats, and one independent. Jeffords promised to vote             
for Democratic control after being promised a committee chairmanship by                     
Democratic Leader Tom Daschle. He then handed his chairmanship of the Health,               
Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which he had held since 1997, to Ted             
Kennedy (D-MA) and was given the chairmanship of the Senate Environment and                 
Public Works Committee, which would have been occupied by ranking minority                 
member Harry Reid. Jeffords held this committee chair until the Democrats lost             
control of the Senate in 2003 following Congressional elections in 2002.                   
Jeffords made a deal with the Democrats according to which he would vote with               
them on all procedural matters except with permission of the whip, which would             
be rarely asked and rarely granted, in exchange for the committee seats that               
would have been available to Jeffords had he been a Democrat during his entire             
Senate tenure. He was free to vote as he pleased on policy matters, but more               
often than not he voted with the Democrats.                                                 
Even before his party switch, his voting record was moderate-to-liberal, which             
has long been typical of Republicans from New England. By the time of his switch           
no Republican Senator had a lower lifetime score from the American Conservative             
Union. In 1981, Jeffords was the only Republican member of the House to vote               
against a bill reducing the top tax rate from 70% to 50% — a hallmark of                 
President Ronald Reagan's legacy. While a Republican Senator, he voted for the             
Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Brady Bill, the Family and Medical Leave Act, an             
end to the ban on gays serving in the military, and against permanent normal               
trade relations with China and barring affirmative action at the federal level.             
Jeffords was also vocal in his opposition to the nomination of Clarence Thomas             
to the United States Supreme Court by President George H.W. Bush. He was one of             
only two Republicans to vote against confirming Thomas. In 1993, he was the only           
prominent Republican to support President Clinton's unsuccessful attempt to                 
establish a national healthcare plan. His position put him to the political left           
of many Democrats who had serious doubts about Clinton's plan. Jefford's voting             
record and positions on environmental issues put further distance between                   
himself and the mainstream Republican Party.                                               
Jeffords consistently voted against the ban on partial-birth abortion, and also             
against a harsher line on Cuba. In 1995 he was one of only 16 Senators to vote             
against the Communications Decency Act. The Supreme Court later struck it down             
as unconstitutional. He was in the minority of Republicans to oppose the Flag               
Desecration Amendment. On guns his record was mixed, despite voting for the                 
Brady Bill and the Assault Weapons Ban, he voted with gun control opponents                 
against background checks at gun shows in 1999 and he voted with the majority of           
Congress for the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. He took a more                 
moderate line on the death penalty. On many economic issues Jeffords was roughly           
in line with the majority of the Republican Party, before and after his switch:             
he mostly supported free-trade agreements, lawsuit reform, tighter bankruptcy               
rules, and a Balanced Budget Amendment. Even after becoming an independent, he             
did vote with Republicans on many major pieces of legislation. For example,                 
Jeffords did vote against the Bipartisan Patient Protection Act, a bill                     
supported strongly by Republican John McCain and many moderate Republicans like             
Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter, and Mike DeWine. Two years later he voted for the             
prescription drug bill, derided by many Democrats as a give away to drug                   
companies and opposed by many conservative Republicans who opposed further                 
federal spending, but ultimately strongly supported by President George W. Bush             
and the vast majority of the Republican Party.                                             
On October 11, 2002, Jeffords was one of 23 senators to vote against authorizing           
the use of military force in Iraq. Shortly after that, he was one of only nine             
senators to vote against the bill establishing a department of homeland security.           
On November 11, 2003 Jeffords was one of only four senators to vote against the             
Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, a bill which                 
received strong support from politicians from across the aisle.                             
In April 2005, Jeffords announced his decision not to run for re-election in               
2006. Jeffords said his wife's cancer and his own growing health concerns caused           
him to decide it was time to retire. On September 27, 2006, Jeffords delivered             
his farewell speech on the Senate floor after 32 years of service. Only one                 
Republican senator, Charles Grassley of Iowa, spoke to the floor in praise of               
Jeffords, whom he called "his friend." Floor speeches for retiring senators are             
a Senate tradition. The 70-year-old incumbent decided to retire despite                     
consensus within the political community that he had good opportunity to win re-election   
in 2006. Jeffords' move set off a domino reaction among state politicians.                 
Congressman Bernie Sanders, formerly the only independent in the U.S. House, ran           
for and won the seat being vacated by Jeffords, while Republican Governor Jim               
Douglas declared that he would not run.