saavedra77: Back to the byte mines ... (Default)
[personal profile] saavedra77
Ironically, despite dramatic Republican defeats in two consecutive Congressional elections, the party's loss of the White House, and its current minority status both in and out of government, a trio of Republican senators have emerged as the 111th Congress' key power brokers: Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter. For the foreseeable future, the fortunes of both the Obama Administration and Congress' Democratic majority are going to be tied to their ability to woo members of this troika.

Notwithstanding all of the Obama Administration's lofty talk about bipartisanship, the recent wrangling over the White House's stimulus legislation only underlined how dim the prospects for that kind of cooperation are, today. During recent election cycles, Democrats have picked up more and more marginal House and Senate seats. Moderate Republican Members of Congress have increasingly been replaced by Democrats. The surviving Republican caucus represents the most conservative corners of the country. The chances that this increasingly right-wing rump party will find common cause with the current administration has always struck me as surpassingly unlikely.

Of course, as we've all learned during the recent Senate debate, this puts President Obama and his party in a difficult position: A single senator's filibuster threat can kill legislation, and sixty votes are needed to shut down a filibuster. If and when Al Franken finally takes his seat as Minnesota's junior senator, Democrats will still officially have only fifty-seven Senate seats, weakly reinforced by two independents who typically caucus with Democrats. The Obama Administration will therefore need the cooperation of at least one Republican senator to get any remotely controversial legislation through Congress for the next two years. This makes that handful of Republican swing votes, Senators Collins, Specter, and Snowe, just about the most powerful people on Capitol Hill.

Happily, last fall's election ceded the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats the initiative, empowering them to shape the agenda for the U.S. government for the coming years. But three Republican senators will serve as gatekeepers, checking Democratic initiatives and defining the limits of what they can do--at least until the 2010 Congressional elections, at which point that balance of power may shift, again (if, for example, retiring Sen. Judd Gregg's seat is claimed by a Democrat). Of course, there's no guarantee that it will, or that the shift will be in Democrats' favor.

So for every really significant change the Administration seeks, the question becomes, which Republican senator can be persuaded to defect and support it? And which parts of Obama's legislative agenda will get past the Senate's new gatekeepers--i.e., Collins, Snowe, and Specter? In civil rights, energy/the environment, health care policy, national security, etc?
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saavedra77: Back to the byte mines ... (Default)
Anthony Diaz

December 2014

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