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Lamar Alexander: If Obama can't govern with 59 votes, 'it's going to be a long four years'

I'm watching the Senate Budget Committee hearings, because that's just how I roll. At the moment, former astronaut Bill Nelson is not happy about the administration's cuts to NASA's spending on manned spaceflight. But a few minutes ago, Sen. Lamar Alexander remarked, "If the president can't pass something important to him with 59 or 60 votes, it's going to be a long four years."

I'd note two things about this comment. One is that it correctly implies bipartisanship on major issues is probably unachievable. Second, Alexander said it relatively incredulously, which is probably a pretty good indicator of how Republicans are viewing the Democratic disarray over health-care reform.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 2, 2010; 11:08 AM ET
Categories:  Congress , Democrats , Government , Health , Health Coverage , Health Reform , Republicans , Senate  
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Comments

Maybe you should start a drinking game of some kind around every time Geithner says "if we hadnt acted". I'd go nuts watching that guy give the same testimony he's delivered 100 times in a row.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | February 2, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Sadly, I doubt that was accompanied by a statement from Senator Alexander that he will now oppose the use of the filibuster, so that 59 votes will actually be enough to move on legislation.

Posted by: etdean1 | February 2, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Funny how Alexander fails to mention that it is only unprecedented repiglican obstruction (2x as many cloture votes as the previous senate, several times more than the average over the last 100 years) that has made governing impossible. Filibustering every bill, refusing to allow votes on 150+ appointees, including TSA head, OLC, and other high level important posts, etc. is now standard practice. Where is the outrage that Alexander showed when dems were denying votes on the radical right wing judges that Bush appointed?

Posted by: srw3 | February 2, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Apparently, they didn't actually expect dragging in their heels as hard as they could to actually DO anything.

Posted by: adamiani | February 2, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

"One is that it correctly implies bipartisanship on major issues is probably unachievable."

I read his comment as just the opposite; he's noting that Obama only has to peel off one or two Republicans to be a success. If he can't even manage that, then he's in for a tough ride.

One example: If health care reform had been paired with tort reform, I'll bet he could have won some Republican votes.

Posted by: tomtildrum | February 2, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Lamar Alexander--one of my senators--is a politician first and a conservative second. I expect he is incredulous that the Republican's Hail Mary strategy bore fruit, and that the Democrats haven't seemed to be able to mount a credible response. Politically, I'm sure Alexander thinks they should have lost that argument, and are amazed that--so far--they haven't.

As far as where the outrage is, I don't there's any political advantage for Alexander to be outraged at the Republicans, so he's not going to show any.

BTW, cutting the NASA budget. That's all sci-fi and vision-of-the-future and Starfleet academy and stuff. If the Democrats can't even keep a moon mission in the budget, what good are they?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 2, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

I definitely give Obama props for doing what he can to chip away at unnecessary spending. I know how difficult it is as I am sympathetic to his overall mission while cringing at the cuts to NASA. Apollo was one of the most impressive things America has ever done. I'll bet that when names like Bill Clinton and George Bush are long forgotten, school children will be learning of Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong. I'm quite a bit upset that Obama won't cut the bloated military, but is letting manned spaceflight die.

Humanity will continue to explore. But I grow ever less optimistic that Americans will be taking the lead, or for that matter even involved.

http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/waynehalesblog.blog/posts/post_1245126299184.html

In short, I wish Obama would reconsider the mix of his cuts but I do commend him for having the courage to do anything at all. Cuts to different programs might well hit people in similar ways, people who are not as disposed as I am to liking Obama.

Posted by: justin84 | February 2, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

tomtildrum: In fact adding tort reform was suggested by Obama, but it still didn't win any repiglican votes. Kyl said that no repiglican would vote for health care period, even while Snowe and Grassley were doing the stalling dance in the finance committee. DeMint said that killing health care would "break Obama" and "be his Waterloo". Let's face it the repiglicans are obstructing any kind of health care reform (and everything else the President has tried to pass, even defense authorizations, which the Dems would be pilloried for by repiglicans and the media if they dared obstruct a defense authorization).

As Obama said, HCR as currently proposed contains many repiglican initiatives and is similar to what repiglicans proposed in 1994 as a rejoinder to the Clinton plan, including buying across state lines, no public option (a big mistake IMHO), and an individual mandate (similar to the Romney health care plan in MA). Frankly, it is too centrist to really make a difference in health care costs in the short term (long term, it MIGHT bend the cost curve some). It does expand access to (private, for profit) health insurance, which the repiglicans should love, but repiglican desire to deny Obama any kind of legislative victory for political gain is ruling their actions now.

Posted by: srw3 | February 2, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

To Kevin_Willis and justin84:

Manned space flight is not the best use of money if the goal is doing science in space. Unmanned probes and missions are far more cost effective in terms of doing actual science.

The fact that the only microwave scatterometer the US has in orbit is going to fail (its already far past its projected life) with no replacement even planned, shows how distorted the space budget is now. The TRMM satellite is crucial for determining wind speed and direction over the open ocean. This data is fed into weather models to improve forcasting in data sparse areas. Manned space flight resumption squeezes out other important space endeavors. I would like to see both funded, but we have to prioritize and unmanned missions are more cost effective.

Posted by: srw3 | February 2, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Sen Nelson isn't an astronaut. He's a career politician, trained as a lawyer, who went into space for 6 days in 1986.

His opposition to the cuts probably has more to do with Cape Caneveral being in our state than with his "career" as an astronaut.

Posted by: steve10c | February 2, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

If we've got enough money to fly Nancy Pelosi's family around to the tune of $2 million bucks, we've got enough money for manned space flight.

And for the TRMM. And other unmanned missions. I want it all. If we could pick where we wanted our tax dollars to go when filling out our taxes, ever last penny of my money would go to NASA. Best thing the government does.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | February 2, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

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