I have no reason to believe that the Base Closure and Realignment Commission is making its decisions on a political basis. The nine-member commission has a bipartisan membership of highly qualified people. But its decisions are bound to have some political effect. The first decisions will help certain Republicans. The commission rejected the Pentagon's recommendations to close down the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, and the Navy's submarine base in New London, Conn.
The decision on the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, on the border of New Hampshire and Maine, will undoubtedly delight four Republican senators: New Hampshire's Judd Gregg and John Sununu and Maine's Olympia Snowe (up for reelection in 2006) and Susan Collins.
The decision on New London has got to be a boost for Connecticut Second District Rep. Rob Simmons, a Republican who won his third term in 2004 by just a 54 to 46 percent margin in a district John Kerry carried by a 54 to 44 percent margin. It's tied with an Iowa district (represented by liberal Republican Jim Leach) as the most pro-Kerry district currently represented by a House Republican. Democrats had looked forward to attacking Simmons in 2006 for not saving the sub base. Now it looks like they'll have to concentrate on other issues. This decision may also help Rhode Island Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who is up in 2006; lots of New London workers live in Rhode Island.
Democrats representing these areas will also be pleased. They include Maine Rep. Tom Allen, Connecticut Sens. Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman, and Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed and Rep. Jim Langevin. But Republicans are more likely to be placed in peril by base closures in a Republican administration.
These decisions will also increase the already high likelihood that Congress will not reject the final regulations. They will be rejected only if both houses of Congress vote to do so within 45 days of submission of the final list. Maine's senators may still vote no because Brunswick Naval Air Station remains on the closure list, but New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island will face only minor lossesprobably not enough to prompt their senators to vote no.