The Democratic Party's control of the US Senate, which was clinched when the Senate's Taiwan Caucus co-chairman George Allen of Virginia conceded defeat in his re-election bid, is expected to be a mixed bag for Taiwan, in contrast to the gains Taiwan can expect from the landslide Democratic capture of the House of Representatives.
With Allen's concession, along with the concession of Montana Republican Conrad Burns, the Democrats gained six seats in the Senate, giving them a 51-49 edge over the Republicans, their first majority in that chamber in four years.
How that will affect Taiwan's legislative fortunes is still unclear.
Traditionally, the Senate has been averse to passing narrowly tailored legislation such as those that are generally introduced in Congress affecting Taiwan, dealing with such issues as military cooperation, Taiwan participation in the WHO, high-level visits by Taiwanese officials to Washington and the US' "one-China" policy.
In that regard, both Republican and Democratic Senators often seemed to agree with each other, in a chamber that sees itself as a deliberative body, in contrast to the House, where passions run high and more extreme issues gain legislative traction.
Taiwan supporters are looking at Nevada Senator Harry Reid, now the minority leader and in line to become the majority leader, to give Taiwan more time than did the current leader,
While Reid's main strength is in domestic issues, he has spoken out strongly in favor of Taiwan in the past.
Speaking in favor of Taiwan's participation in the WHO during the SARS pandemic in 2003, Reid praised President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
"Under President Chen's strong leadership, Taiwan has remained true to its democratic value and has continued to be a model for its neighbors in the region," he said on the Senate floor. "The WHO's refusal to grant membership or even observer status to Taiwan has ... placed the health of all 23 million Taiwanese in jeopardy."
Last year, as Bush was en route to the APEC summit in South Korea, Reid, in a letter, called Bush's China policies "ad hoc, inconsistent and essentially aimless," adding that "China's non-democratic government has taken actions and pursued policies that understandably stoke concerns and fears in America."
Taiwan is expected to fare less well in the Foreign Relations Committee, where Democratic Senator Joseph Biden will take over the chairmanship. Biden is known for a pro-China stance and for not particularly liking Taiwan.
Although Biden has said in the past that he is one of the remaining congressman who voted for the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in 1979, and still agreed with that decision, his backing for Taiwan is limited.
While he has said that he supports the TRA policy that "retain[s] the right to use force to defend Tai-wan," he is a supporter of the Clintonian policy of "strategic ambiguity," which withholds a firm commitment to defend Taiwan militarily, and was sharply critical of President Bush's statement in a television interview in 2001 that he would do "whatever it took" to help defend Taiwan if China launched a military attack.
He also berated UN Ambassador John Bolton during earlier hearings on Bolton's nomination to a senior State Department post in 2001 for Bolton's earlier private writings in support of Taiwanese independence and membership in the UN.
Nevertheless, even under Republican Senator Richard Lugar the committee has in recent years largely disregarded Taiwan interests, so the balance may not change much with Biden in charge.
However, in contrast to the past two years, in which the committee has "withered away," according to one Taiwan lobbyist, the panel will now focus more on China, and that should help Taiwan's interests.
In the Senate Armed Services Committee, which under both Democrats and Republicans bills favoring closer military ties between Washington and Taipei have been thrown out as a matter of course, and where both Chairman John Warner and his Democratic counterpart Carl Levin see eye-to-eye on Taiwan legislation, the shift to Democrat from Republican will not mean much.
However, Taiwan supporters note that Levin has been more favorably disposed to Taiwan than Warner, who threatened Taiwan with the loss of US commitment to come to the island's military defense if China attacks, in a statement following Chen's decision to mothball the workings of the National Unification Council early this year.
A big plus for Taiwan, its lobbyists feel, is the victory of former Congressional Taiwan Caucus co-chair, representative Sherrod Brown of Ohio, to a Senate seat. Brown could give a boost to the Senate caucus, which was largely inactive under Allen.
Democratic co-chair Ti Johnson will have a greater role in guiding the bipartisan caucus now, but Brown could become an important member.
Taiwan supporters might even push for Brown to get a seat on the Foreign Relations Committee, taking the position now occupied by Maryland Democrat Paul Sarbanes, who is retiring.
Replacing Allen as the Republican co-chair of the Senate caucus could be John Kyl of Arizona, one of Taiwan's biggest boosters in the Senate, who holds the powerful post of Republican Policy Committee chairman. Kyl is already a member of the 25-man caucus.
Replacing Brown as one of the four House caucus co-chairs could be Democratic Representative Robert Andrews, a vocal defender of Taiwan's interest, especially in seeking to get a US-Taiwan Free Trade Agreement.
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