WASHINGTON – Senate Republican leaders say they are willing to elevate Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords to a position of leadership in order to keep him in the party, Fox News has learned.
Republicans do not however expect Jeffords to accept the offer.
"Why would he go to Vermont for a news conference to tell his constituents that he is staying in the party, we're not very hopeful" said one leadership aide.
Republican Senate moderates, who met Wednesday with GOP leaders Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., pressed to have Jeffords elevated.
Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island tell Fox News they think if the GOP leaders were to agree to the appointment, and could persuade Jeffords that the moderate political view would be given a more full airing in the GOP conference, Jeffords might still stay in the party.
Jeffords has been made aware of the move to have him elevated to a GOP leadership post, and told Specter, "wait till tomorrow."
Moderate Senate Republicans are seizing on Jeffords' anticipated departure from the GOP to call for moderation in the Senate Republican leadership.
Specter and Chaffee met with several self-described moderates Wednesday and told Lott and Nickles that it is time for "a moderate leadership on an appointed post."
Specter said the moderates would meet again Wednesday afternoon with Nickles and the topic of discussion would be "more moderate governance for the Senate and the country."
Chaffee said several of the moderates "used strong words" to tell current GOP leaders that they should not miss the significance of Jeffords' move and that the GOP has to moderate.