8 a.m. ET: The 2008 election began 545 days ago with the Iowa caucus, and it ended yesterday in Norm Coleman's backyard in St. Paul, where he finally conceded victory to Al Franken in their Senate contest. The Republic had been functioning just fine without a junior senator from Minnesota, so what does Franken's win really mean?
First, it definitely does not mean that Democrats have a filibuster-proof ticket to passing whatever they want. Though technically Democrats have now reached the magic number of 60 senators, it's worth remembering that for practical purposes, the majority may have just 58. Edward Kennedy is still receiving cancer treatments in Massachusetts, and Robert Byrd is now home from the hospital but with no timeframe for returning to the Senate. When the major procedural votes happen on health care and other issues, will either of those aging legends be able to get to the Senate floor? The question may sound indelicate, but as David Espo writes, "Neither man has been in the Capitol for weeks, and it is not known when, or even whether, they will return."
Second, even if Democrats do have 60 votes, there's no guarantee of unanimity, as the ongoing intraparty disputes over health care illustrate. Just as Franken gives Democrats another vote, Bernie Sanders tells Ezra Klein he's establishing the "Coalition of the Unwilling," meaning that he is unwilling to go along with Max Baucus' strategy of trying craft a compromise that will attract Republican votes. Beyond health care, unions are also touting Franken's win as another step toward passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, or "card check" bill. But that measure isn't at the finish line yet either, with multiple Democrats still opposed or at least hedging on it. Climate change is also a long ways from consensus in the chamber.
Why did Franken win? The Fix attributes Franken's victory to better lawyering and a better campaign organization. Politico points out that Coleman's camp was never able to portray the Minnesota recount process or its courts as biased and partisan, and yesterday's unanimous ruling was tough for him to dispute or demonize. Legal experts generally agreed that the decision was clear and that it was unlikely that the U.S. Supreme Court would have granted Coleman a stay blocking the issuance of an election certificate if he'd asked for one. Besides, Coleman does have his political future to consider, and he is said to be "actively keeping his options open for the next gubernatorial election."
Speaking of political futures, at least a half dozen conservative South Carolina state senators yesterday called on Sanford to resign, as the governor seems to be doing his very best to stamp out what's left of his career. Having admitted being dishonest with his wife, Sanford may now be overcompensating by being excruciatingly honest about his mistakes. Why else would he call his Argentinian mistress his "soul mate" while also vowing to try to repair his relationship with his wife? As a colleague of The Rundown's put it, "There's just no greeting card for that."
On Monday, we ruminated on Hillary Clinton's role in formulating the Obama administration's foreign policy, and specifically wondered what she thought of the White House's controversial approach to the unrest in Iran. Now it sounds like we have an answer, courtesy of the Washington Times: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged President Obama for two days to toughen his language on Iran before he did so, and then was surprised when he condemned Iran's crackdown on demonstrators last week, administration officials say." The report is interesting because it suggests Obama "finally took [Clinton's] advice" when he took a stronger line against Iran, and that "he did so without informing her first." Watch today for the administration to downplay any talk of a rift or "split" between the former primary foes.
July 1, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Go to full archive for The Rundown »
Please email us to report offensive comments.
The comments to this entry are closed.