Lamar Alexander has been liberated from wingnut orthodoxy or something

As Alexander told me when I went to see him the day after the announcement, the Gang of Six’s formula “was basically to reform the tax code, lower the rates and to use some of the savings to reduce the debt. I thought that made common sense as a general principle. In the Simpson-Bowles case, it was like 20 percent of the revenues that were created by lowering the rates went to reduce the debt. I think I could persuade 99 out of 100 people walking down the street in Maryville, Tenn., that that made common sense.”

In Maryville, perhaps, but not in the Republican caucus…

“Most senators are here to offer amendments, vote, advocate and get a result,” Alexander said. “The idea that we go through a whole week on this useless discussion about disaster aid this week, with limited opportunities for amendments — that is genuinely frustrating to most members of the Senate.”

Listening to Alexander talk about the issues he’d like to work on — unglamorous but important efforts such as increasing funding for national laboratories or finding a safe way to dispose of nuclear waste — offers a jarring contrast to the shrunken federal role envisioned by some in his party.