Does the Senate Divide Matter?


People everywhere are making a big deal over the recent brain hemorrhage of Tim Johnson (D-SD). Not because they are worried over his health and genuinely hope he gets better. No, the focus is on the political situation…except there is no political situation.

Should he die, the Democrats will lose their weak 51-49 majority in the Senate, and with that they concede control of the Senate to the Republicans. This changes just a few things:

  • Republicans set the agenda.
  • Democrats don’t.

While at first glance that seems drastic, it isn’t. What happens if Republicans hold the Senate? They ratify treaties signed by President Bush. That’s it. Nothing else will get done. Everything else has to pass through the House, which obviously is significantly controlled by the Democrats. Any way you put it, with Bush holding veto power, the Democrats and Republicans are going to have to cooperate. A one man shift of power in the Senate is not going to change that.

Would someone please tell me what Democrats plan to do? What important legislative acts could they possibly pass through in the current political situation? A bare majority lead in the Senate and a significant yet unimportant majority in the House are worthless with the executive branch as the opposite party. This also discounts the fact that Lieberman doesn’t really belong to either party, he is truly the least partisan Senator there. He will not blindly pass Democratic legislation.

The current situation is a public mandate to do nothing. The public is tired of politics and would love nothing more than for it to go away for awhile. Republicans need to get their act together while Democrats need to not be so giddy. It really isn’t very exciting or interesting. At the most the Republican party might need to worry that President Bush may strike a deal to raise taxes. However, there is no way that Bush would permit any drastic changes to the current tax levels.
I would say there will be a huge change in the way President Bush selects judicial nominees…but not really. Democrats tended to filibuster anyone they didn’t approve of anyway. And therein lies the beauty of politics: 41 Senators can essentially veto the other 59. No one bothers to force the Senators to speak for days at a time as they once did. There is no incentive to not filibuster.

That being said, expect pundits to be overemphasizing the possible Republican majority. It’s good television.

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