The news media finally seem to have twigged to the major issue that will be decided on November 4th: do the Democrats get a filibuster-proof Senate? As commented in the first post, there’s a lot more too it than that, but the Senate is as good a place to start as any.
It’s a complex question, more complicated than just reaching 60 votes. The Senate can divide along the lines of particular issues, it can divide into sub-blocs and cliques and in a lot of other ways, so 60 votes isn’t always 60 votes. Contrawise, sometimes 57 votes is 60 votes, especially for GOP Senators from blue states, who may find themselves making up the difference sometimes in the face of elections in 2010. Instead of figuring out some mythical exact number needed (59? 62?), let’s assume instead that the more Democratic votes and the more Progressive votes, the better.
So, what about November 5th in the Senate?
I mentioned three levels of post-election challenges in the last post. (1. Move society. 2. Move a legislative agenda. 3. Govern from a probably temporary position of power.) The filibuster issue in the Senate obviously impacts things the most down on level 3, power, but with the "payload" of allowing Democrats to better act up on level 2, actually enacting things like health care reform, voting reform and aiding the unions who aid us and so on.
Items on Harry Reid’s agenda, and thus on our agenda.
- Get Joe Lieberman back on board.
- Get (Hypothetical) President-Elect Obama to take a GOPer from a blue state out of the Senate and put her (or him) into the Executive Branch.
- Get the public behind the need for the "New New Deal" everyone keeps babbling about.
- Other thoughts? Post and let us know! You just might have the key to a bit more Senatorial power in your head.
We’ll have to be brief here, but let’s go down the list.
Mr. Reid has something that Mr. Lieberman wants: Mr. Lieberman’s powerful chairmanship. Ordinarily, a Democratic Majority Leader couldn’t unseat a powerful chairman... but ordinarily, powerful chairmen don’t go out and actively smear their own party’s presidential candidate on the campaign trail. If Mr. Reid doesn’t feel like compromise, Mr. Lieberman has no moral call on the job at all. He’s out, and he has not one to blame but himself. Contrawise, Senator Lieberman still has one thing that Democrats value: his vote on procedural issues, but only his vote on procedural issues. The DNC has no upside to promoting Senator Lieberman’s political career anymore, not after his behavior this year. They don’t need his experience, they don’t need his vote for actual passage of bills (the 50 vote threshold is well below where Democrats will be on November 5th anyway). For Senator Lieberman, the cupboard is bare if he wants to bargain... except for a very serious promise to toe the party line on procedural issues.
Sounds like "Harry" and "Joe" can get together and sort this one out privately, and let’s encourage them to do it. Maybe there are some emotional issues there, perhaps Senator Lieberman is still smarting from his primary season loss to another Democrat in 2006. If so, he needs to tell himself that he got his revenge in Minneapolis-St. Paul and now he needs to hang on to his Chairmanship and power.
That’s +1 procedural vote in the Senate, over and above the November 4th totals.
If (Hypothetical) President-Elect Obama is wise he has probably already been opening lines to some Senate Republicans he could make excellent use of in the Executive Branch regardless of the Senate count on November 4th.
First of all, a GOP Senator might decide that being in the minority long term wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as being the Ambassador to France or to the Court of Saint James or the United Nations. There are a thousand jobs in which Mr. Obama could use a Republican Senator.
But what if they don’t feel like a cushy job?
Well then it’s time to consider Cabinet appointments. A whole lot of Republican Senators would probably like to be Cabinet officials, especially with their wings suddenly trimmed in the Senate the last two years and for the foreseeable future (two whole years). Worse, when they do the math and realize that the Obama Administration is easily going to reach 60 or so, they may decide it’s better to be the GOP Senator who subverts the Democrats from within than being the poor schmuck who sticks around the dome and watches as impotent GOP filibusters are ended again and again.
But what Republican Senators can offer another Democratic vote in exchange? That is, which ones have Democratic Governors at home to appoint another Democrat to advance Mr. Obama’s agenda?
Smiley face time...
The list is startlingly long, and I mean that literally. I got startled. Since typing the last paragraph, I did a quick cross reference of states with Democratic Governors and at least one Republican Senator.
Here’s the list, and if you’re a Democrat, get ready to grin.
States with a Democratic Governor and a Republican Senator
States with a Democratic Governor and TWO Republican Senators
Count it up and that’s 19, yes, 19 different opportunities for (H) P-E Obama to add to his Senatorial numbers. Nineteen! What are the odds that at least a couple won’t be willing to buy their way into the winner’s circle?
There are people of all political persuasions and all specialities of experience here. Maine alone offers two mostly liberal, female Senators (Senator Snowe and Senator Collins, assuming that Senator Collins wins re-election Tuesday) both with a lot of experience in various areas in which they agree with Senator and (Hypothetical) President-Elect Obama. Wyoming alone offers two staunchly conservative male Senators with Western viewpoints. Arizona offers up Senator John McCain, should he choose to swallow his pride and take a job as Sec-Def or the like. Would Senator Arlen Specter (White, Male, Jewish and middle of the road on many issues) really pass up an opportunity to really run part of the show for eight years?
There are as many votes available here as Senaotr Obama chooses to collect. I’m not nearly as smart as the (H) P-E but in his shoes I’d grab at least 2.
That’s +2 more procedural votes in the Senate.
We’ll discuss moving the public in future posts, so let’s wrap this one up on Senate numbers.
60 votes for cloture isn’t magical, nor is it guaranteed by the presence of 60 Democrats and Independents in the caucus. The real rule is: the more the better. 60 is just an approximation: better call it 60 "or so".
Most prognosticators are now showing about +7 for Democrats on Election Day, for example, see www.fivethirtyeight.com, a site which take statistics seriously. +7 alone gets Democrats to 56, plus one for Senator Bernie Sanders, who is a better Democrat than us Democrats: 57. Senator Lieberman agreeing that he can swallow his pride, keep his chair and vote Democratic on procedural matters is 58. Senator Arlen Specter and Senator Olympia Snowe (or pick your own) in the Cabinet make 60.
60 "or so" is there, if Senator Obama wants it and we stand up and fight for it.
Caveats and disclaimers: this offer not valid in all 50 states. Some GOP Senators on the list may lose their jobs anyway come November 4th and so the number may be less than 19 on November 5th. Actual odds of winning nearing 100%, actual cash value determined by our dedication after the election. Numerous other GOP figures should be in the Obama Administration as well as Senators from "Blue Governor States". Long term exposure to GOP Senators may cause disorientation, loss of spinal calcium, nausea, vomiting or mental distress, consult your physician.