Monday, December 8, 2008

The Most Popular Person In Washington, D.C.

It was always a long shot but it is now official. The Democrats will not have a filibuster proof 60/40 split in the Senate. Saxby Chambliss'* victory in Georgia on Tuesday night was the first 'official' sign that the Democrats weren't going to have the SUPER-MAJORITY needed and while things in Minnesota are still up in the air, it now appears that Norm Coleman^ will win in Minnesota. So what does this all mean... well now the Democrats need two Republicans to invoke cloture and thus bring a vote to the floor of the Senate (little know fact about the U.S. Senate, it actually operates at the SuperMajority level of 60 votes).

So who might these people be? 538 ran them down the other day and there are no major surprises:
59. Snowe (ME). Obama won Maine by 18 points, making it the bluest state to be home to a Republican senator -- and in fact, it has two of them. Per Voteview, Olympia Snowe is incrementally more liberal than Susan Collins; she's also up for re-election two years sooner. It will be very interesting to see how the two of them will legislate under an Obama administration.
60. Collins (ME). See above.
61. Specter (PA). Under re-election pressure in a state that Obama carried by double digits. Mitigating factor: possible that he'll be under pressure from the right too in the form of a primary challenge.
62. Lugar (IN). On good terms with Obama, who (barely) won his state. Voteview has him becoming slightly more liberal over the past several Congresses.
63. Voinovich (OH). Under serious re-election pressure. Has often been moderate -- or even slightly left of center -- on pocketbook issues, and increasingly so on other ones.
What does this mean? The state of Maine is going to be getting a ton of money over the next two years for pet projects. But I think it gets more complicated than that. With the Democrats so close to having a filibuster proof Senate, clever GOPers will position themselves so that they are that final swing vote. This will bring home the bacon for their constituents—so expect to hear Specter and Voinovich's names, along with Snowe and Collins, a lot in the next two years.

Also, I would expect Mary Landrieu and other conservative Democratic Senators to move to the right. That seems odd, but again, it puts them in a better position to bring pork projects for their state. This looks good to the constituents and helps in re-election campaigns.

Politics aside, the Democrats are in a fantastic position to get a lot of things done without consulting the Republicans. Since they're only going to need two votes to get whatever they want done, the Republicans have little chance of stopping them. Snowe, Collins, Specter, and Lugar are all better off ditching their party on most issues if it allows them to get money or projects for their home state.

* Doesn't sound like a very American name does it? Who names their child Saxby? Okay so his first name is Clarence. But Saxby... really?
^ If there was ever a 'Soter name, this is it.

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