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Cracker Squire

THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Republicans May Yet Have Upper Hand in Senate

Gerald F. Seib writes in The Wall Street Journal:

On paper, the numbers tell you the Democrats held on to a majority in the Senate last week.

In reality, things won't be quite that neat. In fact, on some issues the Republicans actually may have a functional majority, given the sentiments likely to prevail among certain Democrats who face the voters in two years.

Among the Senate Democrats, 23 will face re-election in just two years, and, having just witnessed the drubbing some in their party took at the polls, they likely will be even less willing now to toe the party line. Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who caucuses with Democrats, often leans rightward, anyway.

More important, among those 23 Democrats who face voters in 2012 are a handful of incumbents from the kind of moderate to conservative states where Democrats took a beating last week: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Jon Tester of Montana, Jim Webb of Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Joe Manchin, who just won a Senate race in West Virginia by separating himself from President Barack Obama and his party's congressional leaders, also faces voters again in two years because he was elected only to fill out an unexpired term.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, looks at this field and thinks he may see some votes for his side. He points in particular to his desire to roll back parts of this year's big health bill.

[M]aybe there also are Democrats prepared to drift to the Republican side on issues beyond health—say, on spending cuts, tax levels and a new energy program built around such items as electric cars and clean-coal technology. On selected issues, that means Mr. McConnell actually might find it at least as easy as the Democrats' Mr. Reid to assemble a working majority.

Of course, there are distinct limits to how much that means in the ever-messy Senate. In a body where any 41 members can mount and sustain a filibuster to stop action, having a bare majority, real or functional, has limited impact.

Moreover, lest Mr. McConnell be tempted to feel cocky about his position, he has internal problems of his own.

. . . . Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina has become a kind of spiritual godfather to the tea-party movement.

And anyone who operates under the tea-party banner isn't likely to feel he is in Congress to compromise on principles to get things done but is highly likely to feel he has a mandate to defy the established leaders in both parties. So the Republican conference could be as unruly and unreliable as the Democratic one.

The real upshot may be that, in a Senate where neither party really has a clear majority on every issue, party discipline means less and the opportunity for free-lancing and interparty mash-ups grows.

Nobody will really be in charge. Let the fun begin.

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