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Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 12/ 3/2010

Who's in charge of the Senate?

By Jennifer Rubin

The House Democrats will have it relatively easy. What remains of the Pelosi Democrats in January, for the most part, will be liberal members from relatively safe seats who will have no responsibility for governing. They can cater to the base to their heart's delight.

But the Senate will be a different story. The dynamic there will be quite fascinating -- and treacherous for Democrats.

The numbers that matter are 23 (Democrats plus independents up for re-election in 2012), 47 (total Senate Republicans) and 60 (the cloture minimum). The name of the game for those 23 will be to balance partisan loyalty against electoral self-interest. From a self-interest standpoint, many of them will feel extreme pressure to join with the 47 Republicans on everything from taxes to health care to regulation.

It doesn't take but a few moments talking to Republican Senate advisors to realize that they lack much respect for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In fact, at times it is hard to remember that he is the majority leader. The lame duck session, one senior advisor tells me, "is the worse managed session I've ever seen." Reid remains obsessed with small bore items, that advisor complains. Another advisor to a senior Republican tells me that Reid seems fixated on fulfilling campaign promises: "He told voters he'd do the DREAM ACT. He promised [Sen. Tom] Harkin he'd do FDA reform." The advisor then adds, "But he's never had a broad vision. It's just going down the list, checking the boxes" to satisfy various interest groups.

The lack of forceful leadership, combined with the electoral pressure, will create opportunities for Republicans to make their Democratic colleagues squirm. One advisor observes that newly elected Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia ran saying he supported extension of all the Bush tax cuts, but now he's open to Sen. Chuck Schumer's plan to cut off extension above the $1-million mark. A veteran Senate policy guru, meanwhile, points the finger at Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.): "She says how independent she is, but when it matters she votes with the president. The stimulus, health care, financial reform -- all three would have failed without her." It is, he predicts, "going to be a whole lot harder for these guys" to divorce their votes from their rhetoric in the next Congress.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side of the aisle, a veteran advisor says it's "the most serious class" he's seen entering the Senate since he arrived on the Hill 14 years ago. Since voters last month rejected a number of Tea Party-backed Republican candidates -- Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, Joe Miller and Christine O'Donnell -- most of the incoming Republicans are rather mainstream and experienced. They include two former congressmen (Pat Toomey and Mark Kirk), a state house speaker (Marco Rubio), a Bush administration veteran (Rob Portman), a popular governor (John Hoeven), a state attorney general (Kelly Ayotte), a veteran senator and former ambassador to Germany (Dan Coats) and a small businessman who, as one advisor put it, "got pissed off" at what was happening to the country (Ron Johnson). Yes, there is Rand Paul, but he's sounding more like a mainstream Republican than a wide-eyed radical these days. And a number of Capitol Hill Republican can't hide their delight that quirky figures such as Arlen Specter and George Voinovich are being replaced by more serious, reliable conservatives.

Moreover, adversity has bred unity on the Republican side. Each Republican, including the Maine senators, knows what it feels like to have debate cut off by Democrats and to be left with nothing for their constituents. Sen. Susan Collins was left out in the cold on small business issues. Sen. Olympia Snowe was infuriated at one point over what she deemed abuse of Senate rules by the majority. That has fostered a certain solidarity, as evidenced by this week's letter in which all 42 Republicans vowed to filibuster bills before tax and government financing measure are completed.

I've also found no neo-isolationist sentiment brewing. A Senate advisor offers an explanation: "We have a core group here who went through the Iraq war and never refused to give the troops what they needed. The Democrats forced about 70 votes [to cut off funding, enact conditions for withdrawal]," and yet the Republicans held firm. Even Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell weathered a tough 2008 election that, had the war not been an issue, he would have otherwise sailed through. So, while there may not be much interest in wresting management of foreign policy from the president, neither is there any interest in returning to "Fortress America."

The Senate will be the most unpredictable, and, therefore, the most interesting player on the political scene come January. Will the hapless Reid control the body, or will a fluid coalition of red state Democrats and Republicans led by McConnell run the show? Stay tuned.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 3, 2010; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  Senate Democrats, Senate GOP  
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Comments

60 Votes has been in charge of the Senate

For decades - that means that the power of the majority party is limited.


Overall, no matter how much the liberals complain, this system has served the nation well.

The liberals fail to do their research - the democrats have used the filibuster far more than anyone else since the 1950s -


Also, the filibuster, in one sense, is simply a continuation of the old balance-of-power between the Free States and the Slave States - the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1840 -


Since the early 1800s, there have been built-in ways to preserve a balance in the Senate. These have taken various forms over the years - the filibuster is the latest in this long line.


Posted by: RainForestRising | December 3, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Next year, the Republicans need 13 democrats on an issue to get to 60 - this is the new dynamic.


So, the Republicans + Obama + 13 democratic Senators = A law.


That just might be the new dynamic

.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 3, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer

I encourage you to ENGAGE these crazy liberals point-by-point WITHIN the comment threads


Once their insanity is exposed, hopefully, the will reflect, and change their views.


The American People are going to be better off in the end - after a vigorous debate and exposure of the liberals.


Yes, trolls, that means you !

.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 3, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I do think the Senate in 2011 is going to be a lot of fun. Let's see Webb and Manchin (sp?) go out on a limb for the administration on taxes and Obamacare.

Posted by: jmpickett | December 3, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse


Jennifer
I encourage you to ENGAGE these crazy liberals point-by-point WITHIN the comment threadsOnce their insanity is exposed, hopefully, the will reflect, and change their views.
The American People are going to be better off in the end - after a vigorous debate and exposure of the liberals.
Yes, trolls, that means you !
Posted by: RainForestRising

RainForest listen for once,and keep your venom under wraps. Point by point analysis,give and take discourse in not her MO,She runs as fast as she can away from those behaviors by spewing out as many Posts daily as she can. Think about WFB JR,the way he revelled in picking apart his liberal opponents,the way he took on all that would face him,and he desired to meet with the most intelligent,educated opposition,ie his lifelong relationship with Keynesian,John Kenneth Galbraith. His enjoyment of discourse with Radical Liberals like Norman Mailer,then Liberal Norman Podhoretz,and Noam Chomsky. Be honest for just a minute about this very mediocre talent.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 3, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I agree that if jennifer doesn't engage the leftist DC beltway people on these threads, maybe they should just shut down comments. lots of rude stupidity on these threads.

Posted by: jmpickett | December 3, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

agree that if jennifer doesn't engage the leftist DC beltway people on these threads, maybe they should just shut down comments. lots of rude stupidity on these threads.
Posted by: jmpickett

That's exactly what happened at Commentary's Contentions,but,when Comments stopped,readership dropped to near zero.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 3, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

The retirement of Voinovich is timely. I have to believe that he KNEW he wouldn't get re elected.

the Republicans in Ohio were so incensed with Mike DeWine's inability to hew to conservative principles that they did the mega enthusiasm gap and that moron Sherrod Brown took his seat.

Senator Voinovich had to know that the same day of reckoning was facing him. Rather than go out a loser, he took the retirement route.

as a staunch conservative from Ohio, all I can say is "well, bye" Good riddance to that bumbling fool.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 3, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Well I've heard of making an apples to oranges comparison, but this is more like a fish to bicycles analogy.

the simple fact is that the formats are dramatically different. Firing Line was designed so that Mr Buckley could use his brilliant intellect and rapier wit.

This blog is a completely different format. She writes, ostensibly to foment comments. This isn't an interview process at all. The author isn't designing questions and planning strategies for dealing with a "Guest" (more like "roastee"). Instead she's delivering short, hopefully insightful, essays about the current state of affairs.

To me it isn't that she CAN'T do the Buckley firing line schtick, it is that this is not the proper place for it, talent level notwithstanding.

Or are you just slamming her because you don't like her politics? I get that too. I understand the role that liberal condescencion played in the most recent election. Therefore I encourage that from Democrats at every opportunity.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 3, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year, i.e. those who have largely been spared the effects of Bush's recession, is the right thing to do. Period.

Posted by: No_Tea | December 3, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

rcaruth | December 3, 2010 12:47 PM


THAT is not venom - far from it.

Im holding back

Ive been holding back for a long, long time.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 3, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Your analysis simply assumes that the constituents of the Senators up for reelection prefer Republican policies (whatever the heck those are, other than tax cuts) and that the Democratic party is hell bent on enacting an agenda with no popular support whatsoever. I think that you overread the results of the recent eleotion. It does not surprise me that the GOP spins the election in that way, but shouldn't you actually be analyzing the issues and present to your readers a more nuanced take on the issues--otherwise you might as well just go on Fox News and simply parrot GOP talking points (although it might be the GOP that is parroting Fox News' talking points--I think the jury is still out on which one formulates the party's agenda)

Posted by: ado211 | December 3, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

You gloating conservatives: President George W. Bush took over a budget surplus from Bill Clinton. After eight years of your trumpeted economic fiscal expertise, we were losing 700,000 jobs monthly when Bush left office. Wow.... what a performance!!!Where were you Jenifer?
I am a moderate, leaning Democratic, yet I did not vote for Sen. John Kerry in 2004 for a good reason. I did not want you sloganeering Conservative Republicans to hang the predictable Iraqi debacle around his neck and that of his fellow Democrats. I needed to see the duo 'strong leadership' of Bush and Cheney, that the Islamic terrorists were supposedly so scared of ( as we were constantly told), perform their magic. Thank goodness you do not have John Kerry to blame for Iran and Afghanistan.
Of course you gloat about winning elections. Yes, just as I marvel about how well the large majority of the 'red States voters cast aside reality, and vote against their own interests. Well, I am now prepared to join them and hasten the Republican take over of the senate so that they can enact their magic policies that benefit these sheep that keep voting for them.I am tired of watching the Democrats, time after time, saving the the hides Republicans by coming to the rescue of the victims of Republican conservative economic policies, with programs that these victims in turn criticize as 'big Government' .
My suggestions: lets allow Republicans take over all branches of Government and then force them to scrap social security and medicare(railed against as socialist by conservative mini-God Ronald Reagan, get rid of unemployment benefits, repeal health care reform etc...etc. Seriously, I wish I had the magic wand to make this come true and call the conservative bluff, and then watch the 'prosperity' that would be heaped on their voting herd.
Once again, it is time to call the conservative economic bluff.

Posted by: NATAMA2020 | December 3, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, Jenn, point by point, engage us liberals (I thought we were dropping labels!) or "bring it." So far, this is Fox News, in print.

Posted by: SarahBB | December 3, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Skipsailing28/To me it isn't that she CAN'T do the Buckley firing line schtick, it is that this is not the proper place for it, talent level notwithstanding.

If you think that JR is the intellectual equal of WFB Jr,fine, but here is something that Buckley could do that Rubin can't,change his position and admit error,because he was an adult. Two examples,Vietnam War,and The Civil Rights Act.
Again Buckley loved discourse and winning debates,but the education of his audience was primary,that is why you could trust Buckley's facts,he had integrity.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 3, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

well rcaruth, I thank you for the kinds words about a man I much admire.

but, what do the virtues of Mr Buckley have to do with the virtues of our gracious hostess here? The fact that Mr Buckley was a huge talent doesn't say anything at all about Ms Rubin's relative gifts. That you believe Mr Buckley to have been a man of integrity doesn't mean that Ms Rubin lacks that quality.

if you have an axe to grind with the hostess, I wonder what it is.

I am impressed by the comment of natama2020. Packing that much venom and condescencion into a few dense sentences is an amazing feat of productivity.

That nantama202 could spout the liberal dogma, insult those who disagree and still have words left with which to slander people is just the best example of good old demagoguery I've seen in quite some time.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 3, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I don't think the Dems up for reelection have to worry. The Repubs will overreach as usual and doom their chances for a 2012 victory, misreading as usual the sense of the US electorate.

Posted by: kakish | December 3, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

kakish

I count 14 vulnerable democratic Senators - either in right-leaning States, or in States in which Republicans have won recently State-wide.


The Republicans have a path to get to 60 votes in 2012.

It is that simple.

Posted by: RainForestRising | December 3, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

SS28/well rcaruth, I thank you for the kinds words about a man I much admire.
but, what do the virtues of Mr Buckley have to do with the virtues of our gracious hostess here? The fact that Mr Buckley was a huge talent doesn't say anything at all about Ms Rubin's relative gifts. That you believe Mr Buckley to have been a man of integrity doesn't mean that Ms Rubin lacks that quality.
if you have an axe to grind with the hostess, I wonder what it is.

Me and the hostess go way back,anyway,my ax is the deterioration,sleaziness of the current generation of Conservatives as contrasted with the Conservatives/ Everett Dirkson thru Reagan. NR used to be a magazine of integrity and learning which is now mainly a sleazy propaganda sheet not much better than a Glen Beck show. If you want, Glen Beck-Jennifer Rubin are quite similiar,let's contrast them with Whitaker Chambers.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 3, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

"I am impressed by the comment of natama2020. Packing that much venom and condescencion into a few dense sentences is an amazing feat of productivity."

Actually, as lefty posts go, it is a model of restraint and civility. Natama didn't use the words racist, bigot, moron, or Fox. At least I don't think she did. My eyes kind of glazed over while reading, so I can't be sure.

Posted by: Larry3435 | December 3, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I liked NATAMA's post very much--he/she provides a model for Democrat behavior: call conservatives' bluff, all Democrats vote Republican, for at least a few election cycles, so their utter failure can be exposed to all. I hope the idea catches on.

That the current generation of conservatives is intellectually and morally degenerate compared to previous ones is one of the most common leftist tropes. The same people who hated Reagan's guts and compared him unfavorably to Goldwater, or Taft, or whoever (after they were done demonizing Goldwater) now hold him up as representative of a Golden Age of conservatism now lost. And Buckley was treated as a "crypto-fascist" by liberals for a long time, before he could be used to demonize new generations.

Why the focus on JR, and not the Tea Party, if the point is to define the current condition of conservativism--is that also a cesspool of intellectual and moral degradation? RCaruth is interested in a few issues, which he talks about incessantly and monotonously and, often very interestingly--above all the evils of fiat money, but also the need for invasions of other countries (especially oil producers) to increase our cash flow (although I'm never sure how seriously he takes that) and a kind of isolationism, all of which gives him a unique and valuable perspective. But this animus towards the "neocons," which includes anger at their unaccountable interest in Israel, seems to be overriding those interests here. Let's hope he starts summarizing the critiques of our current economic situation from the perspective of the misesian inspired economists he knows so well, complete with links and application to the topic under discussion. None of that may seem "realistic" right now, but if the economy collapses, the idea of asset based currency, and the right to trade in non-governmental currencies, are going to catch on very fast.

Posted by: adam62 | December 3, 2010 8:51 PM | Report abuse

With McConnell and Reid, the Senate 2001-12 is going to mostly be where legislation, and some confirmations, simmer until they evaporate.

I doubt there will be a "fluid coalition of red state Democrats and Republicans led by McConnell". I sense different coalitions aka "gangs of ..." depending on the issue. Maybe the GOP can maintain party discipline, but I like to dream that there are more pragmatic independents in both parties than the pundits think.

Being an inveterate Senate watcher, I am going to enjoy the next two years.

Johann and Hoeven, assisted by the two Nelsons, take down Schumer and Durbin on emergency Medicaid bridge funding, while Ayotte and McCaskill lock Boxer in a remote ladies room.

Meanwhile, Corker, Johnson, and Isakson team up with Tester and Webb, to form a reality-based program that restores confidence in the business community solely by sending all the lawyers in Congress to community college for one semester.

yeah, time to get some sleep...

Posted by: K2K2 | December 3, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse


You guys should stop complaining because, one the health care we have now isnt as good as it was supposed to be. also the law has just been signed so give it some time. so if u want to say u have the right to choose tell that to ur congress men or state official. If you do not have insurance and need one You can find full medical coverage at the lowest price check http://ow.ly/3akSX .If you have health insurance and do not care about cost just be happy about it and trust me you are not going to loose anything!

Posted by: bryanmobley | December 4, 2010 3:05 AM | Report abuse

adam62

Hello Adam,good to hear from you.
What I'm thinking is how long are we going to be in this economic swamp before smart guys like you begin to conclude that this swamp isn't going bye bye,and when the swamp doesn't go bye bye,it's called a depression. Also,how long is it going to be before you realize that every trick in the SUPER EVIL fiat money systems book ain't going to work(Great Depression 2 has entered its 4TH year),and the only trick left is to reconfigure the currency. We reconfigured it in 1971,and it worked for a while. Reconfiguring it now,might only work for a while,but that would be good enough.
I have two references for you:
(1)Read Arthur Burn's Diary "In The Nixon Administration" He was the Architect of the reverse Alchemy from Gold to Paper.
(2)Bernanke recently made a speech in Germany where he admitted(FOR THE FIRST TIME BY A FED CHIEF EVER)that our currency has a core structurial defect,he doesn't specify as to the exact nature of that defect,I'll let you take a stab at that" LOL

Posted by: rcaruth | December 4, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Nice to be speaking again with you too, Rex. The problem is always the politics of it--there is Ron Paul, but he has hit the ceiling on his possible support, since many (including myself) consider him insane (in political terms), often for reasons unconnected to his critique of fiat money. Until another serious politican comes along supporting these ideas, or ideas close to them, there is no choice but to support the available policies that at least point to the kind of fiscal discipline and limited government that a return to asset based currency would entail. When an even more serious crisis hits, or, if you like, when the existing crisis becomes impossible to evade, whether it is interpreted as a failure of capitalism or a failure of fiat money will be of the utmost importance.

But, what do you mean by "reconfigure the currency"? Wasn't the previous reconfiguration the source of the problem? How is that different from the "tricks" that can no longer work?

Posted by: adam62 | December 4, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Adam/ RP is a darling of the tea party,but my point is that he's the first of a new breed to be chairing Monetary policy,maybe in the future,some more viable types will continue his work. But for now,he's all us Asset lovers have,and this is a brand new direction for that committee.
As far as reconfiguration,I'm just referring to the process of reassetizing the money. Check out my long post on Jennifer's weekend homework assignment,however,it's nothing you're not aware of,because you've heard me rant about this so often.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 4, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I'll check it out, and we'll have this conversation again. Paul is a darling of some segments of the Tea Party, and as long as they have his monetary policy thinking in mind, I don't find that alarming. I do hope that new breed comes along, and it seems to me it will come from today's conservatives, however "degraded," etc., they may be. Anyway, I think this is a good point to "institutionalize" on the blog.

Posted by: adam62 | December 4, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

Most of the comments here are rightward biased. Some of them are rather nasty. But of course, I've seen the opposite with leftward bias under some other articles (probably from different sources). Altogether, it's a pretty depressing evidence of how polarized our country is.

I had never really noticed (or paid enough attention to remember) Jennifer Rubin before, but I gather from some responses here (and comparison to WF Buckley) that she has a lot of fans on the right.

The comments here same to be complete sentences with good grammar and coherent thoughts (in contrast to much of the internet). Maybe I'll pay more attention to Jennifer Rubin.

Posted by: eco_bill | December 5, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

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