Monday, December 01, 2008

Can Obama Change America Without a Filibuster-Proof Senate?

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Fortunately DeWine is gone but you don't want to count on this crew to bring about progress

Today's Washington Post speculates that even if Georgia, as expected, re-elects extremist Senator Saxby Chambliss, a die-hard obstructionist who is as much to blame for America's economic crisis as Bush or any other lockstep Republican ideologue, Obama will still be able to get much of his agenda through Congress. Chambliss' re-election means that even if Al Franken wins the Minnesota recount, Democrats will not have the votes they need to win cloture votes and stop an onslaught of partisan filibusters.
Though they are two votes short of their quest for 60 votes-- with two races still undecided-- Democrats say that regular support from a few Republican moderates will allow them to pass bills that were halted in the current Congress by GOP parliamentary roadblocks. These include healthcare programs, immigration revisions and presidential nominations.

"The truth is . . . we will be fine on most major issues. We will almost always have some moderate Republican support," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

There's more than just math at work here-- and any given issue is likely to result in different coalitions. One "Democratic" vote belongs to the unreliable treacherous senator from Connecticut, Joe Lieberman. And there are 5 actual Democrats in the Senate who have voted more frequently with Bush on substantive matters than even Lieberman-- from bad to worse, Tim Johnson (SD), bumbling imbecile Mark Pryor (AR), Evan Bayh (IN), Mary Landrieu (LA) and Ben Nelson (NE). These six are likely to find some new like-minded colleagues among the freshly elected batch. Certainly Kay Hagan (NC) and Mark Warner (VA) can not be counted on to push a progressive agenda and although Jeff Merkley's and Tom Udall's priorities will be all about working families, more than a few of the new Democratic members are untrustworthy Establishment corporate shills.
Likely internal divisions among Democrats make it difficult to handicap the outcome of the biggest issues next year, particularly comprehensive efforts to secure universal health insurance and energy independence legislation, aides say.

Example: notorious right of center corporate shill Max Baucus is trying to grab health care reform away from progressive Ted Kennedy. Kennedy will be fighting for working families and Baucus will be fighting for corporate campaign contributors.

The Post story sounds confident that Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine can be counted on by the Democrats. Snowe is a good guess; Collins isn't. She just won re-election and is filled with animus towards Democrats who campaigned against her and has nothing to fear from moderate voters for 6 years. She's likely to show an extremely conservative side for at least four of those years before "turning" moderate again.

The Post also concludes that Arlen Specter and John McCain, each of whom will face voters in 2010, are likely to lend Obama a hand from time to time. Specter will probably be challenged from the extreme right in a GOP primary and he'll be looking to burnish his conservative cred between now and then.

A combination of shifting alliances, a lack of party discipline and incredible corruption guarantees that nothing is for sure and that Obama will have to fight for anything he hopes to accomplish. It isn't a good sign that he's unwilling to go down to Georgia and fight to elect Jim Martin in the face of a constant barrage of attacks by extremist Chambliss who is campaigning on a platform of sabotaging Obama's agenda.

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5 Comments:

At 5:03 PM, Blogger VG said...

Howie,

I would at least question one part of your analysis.

McCain won in GA.

There seems to be a lot of organization gotv support from the Obama campaign/ campaigners for Martin in GA (based on what I have read) and given my experiences with the Martin campaign, this is the kind of tactical and organizational support that the Martin campaign can use.

Just my take (fwiw) but given the racial politics in GA, and the fact that McCain won, I actually think that Obama showing up to campaign in GA could just as equally have had a negative effect for the Martin campaign- some 29% of GA electorate (registered voters) are AA. An Obama appearance could just as equally have mobilized the anti-Obama = pro-Saxby crowd big time.

Just my 2 cents.

 
At 5:13 PM, Blogger KELSO'S NUTS said...

VG: My sense of it is that with the presidential race over, an Obama visit is not that likely to bring out a lot of haters in number just to do the opposite of what he advocates. It will be a smaller pool, but if Obama shows up, he can win Martin the election because he'll bring out a flood of Martin's key bloc: Black men. Without Obama that bloc will be half as big.

 
At 8:26 PM, Blogger Democracy Lover said...

The Senate has not really been stymied by filibusters, it has been stymied by a "leadership" that was unwilling to force the Republicans to make good on their threats to filibuster. Do they really want to get on national TV opposing things that a vast majority of Americans support? Do they want to be identified as the obstructionists that are preventing the Congress from doing its job?

As long as the Dems give up without a real fight, they take the blame for inaction.

 
At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am waiting for Snowe to pull a Jeffords and turn Dem.

 
At 3:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Obama wouldn't have a filibuster-proof senate even if there were 60 Democrats. Partly because of political machinations, and partly due to the Republican wing of the party, I doubt Obama could take it for granted he will get every Senator to toe party line every time. That's healthy (ignoring the shills who are only doing it because they are taking marching orders from lobbyists), certainly more healthy than the zombie block voting of the Republican countrolled Congress under Bush.

It would actually be better for the party not to cross the 60 threshold while they still have the shills, if only for PR reasons. It's a bit hard to explain why you couldn't pass a universal healthcare bill with 60 nominal Democratic senators, without pointing out X number of those senators have been bought and paid for to vote the against the interests of their constituents.

That isn't to say that I think they should blame Republicans, who are likely to be obstructionist no matter their numbers. They should be held accountable, but rhetorically it's far too easy to blame them and think that they are the only reason.

Democrats need to work hard, and be seen to work hard. The problem with having something look fool-proof in theory is that it sets up impossible expectations, and frankly until the Senate is filled with better more representative members those expectations will remain impossible.

 

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