Feb. 16th, 2009

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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.

Polarization, the Filibuster, and the Power of the Swing Vote )

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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Anthony Diaz

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