Republicans and the Senate

Obviously everyone knows what’s at stake in ’08 when voters head to the polls. The House of Reps is in Democratic hands, and most likely will remain that way. And there’s a very real possibility that a Democrat may end up in the White House. There’s little doubt of what sort of agenda will then be proposed.

For Republicans, the Senate, even in minority status, could end up being the key to surviving the election.

Democrats certainly understand what that would mean:

But Senate Democrats mostly complain that even on routine matters, such as proceeding to take up a bill, scheduling votes on amendments or naming senators to sit on conference committees, Republicans have objected and forced them to get the 60 votes needed to override objections — a tough task in a chamber where Democrats hold a 51-49 advantage.

“The fact is it’s been hard,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who served in the House from 1980-92 and is now in his party’s leadership team as chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee. “The Republicans have been objecting even to motions to proceed of even to going to appropriations bills, so it’s not been an easy time for us. But we’re getting things done.”

Or said another way, the Republican minority has been doing to the Democrats what the Democratic minority did when it enjoyed that status. I’m sorry but I just don’t have much sympathy for them on this particular point. Neither, apparently, does the present Republican minority leader according to his spokesman:

“Let me get this straight: When they were in the minority, it was the majority’s fault when their agenda failed,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “And now that they’re in the majority, it’s the minority’s fault? Seriously?”

Seriously.

But there’s an important point hidden in there. Given the possible outcome of the ’08 presidential election, the Senate could end up being the Republican ace-in-the-hole – if they can maintain at least the status quo. Keeping it as close as possible (51-49) is critical and especially true for Supreme Court nominations. Since every agenda and most key nominations, to include those of a Democratic president, must move through the Senate, I think the reason should be obvious. And as a friend of mine once said, “Republicans are never more “Republican” than when they’re in the minority.”

That said, Republicans are going to have to work hard to ensure they keep the power (and the numbers) they now have if they hope to act as a brake on the Democratic agenda. Never, in my memory, has the Senate been as key to the Republican future as it is now.

Previously published at QandO. Please come and visit us.

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