Christopher Shays and Sherwood Boehlert

Article excerpt

The guests at Thursday's Monitor breakfast - Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut and Sherwood Boehlert of New York -- are both key players in the Republican Main Street Partnership. The group of moderate Republicans was formed after the 1994 elections and includes 10 senators and 48 House members.

Republican moderates have long considered themselves an endangered species in a conservative-dominated Republican Party. But lately they have had some wins.

"This is the moderates' moment," Boehlert said. "Quite honestly, inadvertently I think, the House Democrats have empowered the [Republican] moderates," he told reporters.

That's because House Democrats have been voting as a bloc, forcing Republican leaders to court moderate Republican votes rather than rely on votes from conservative Democrats to pass legislation. Moderates in the House were able to block plans to expand oil drilling in Alaska. And Main Street members took the lead in blocking some cuts in entitlement programs, like Medicare.

House moderates now are pushing to insert language in a key spending bill that would ban the use of torture by the military and Central Intelligence Agency. It echoes a measure drafted by Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona that won passage by a 90 to 9 vote in the Senate.

"I met with [Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter] Pace last night, and he said the military has no problem living under their own [field] manual and living under the McCain amendment. …