I'd like to plug my friend David Harewood, who has written today's featured article over at InformedPlanet.com. Check him out.
So as it turns out, I was right when I predicted a 53-47 split in the Senate (not in any way that was recorded, so I guess you'll have to trust me. Or not. Whatever.) I didn't make a prediction for the House, but if I had, it would have been wrong. Not that I was particularly surprised. History dictates big wins for the opposition the first midterm election following a new President's inauguration, as well as during hard economic times.
But consider this:
In the past two years, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, House Democrats passed a truly astounding amount of legislation-- including major reforms such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Credit CARD Act, and the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Not to mention the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which just today I discovered was being put to use to repair a stretch Cambridge Street in Somerville, MA that had fallen into such disrepair that its potholes have cost me a bike tire, a wheel and a brake cable.
But I guess John Boehner doesn't want me to have a bike.
In any case, Nancy Pelosi has been regarded by historians as one of the best Speakers of the House in the past hundred years. In addition to those specific bills I mentioned, she passed 430 bills through the House, all of which had majority support in the Senate, and yet none of which passed. Because Senate Democrats were too scared to make Republicans own up to their obstructionism and actually read from the phone books to stop them from passing bills covering, among other things, infant nutrition.
The Public Option, which 50% of Republicans supported, died in the Senate. As did a significant portion of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which it is now abundantly clear wasn't enough. Unemployment benefit extensions, small business tax credits, a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and additional infrastructure programs all languished due to the Democrats' unwillingness to challenge the notion that requiring 60% of the Senate to pass anything was normal.
And yet? It's Speaker Pelosi who loses her job title in January, whilst Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid keeps his gavel.
So what now?
We have divided government yet again, but unlike in 1994, the Senate remains in Democratic hands. With the House controlled by the opposition and the Senate still incapable of action, Democrats aren't going to be able to have any kind of a legislative agenda unless the filibuster gets changed. As luck would have it, the rule's two greatest defenders (Chris Dodd of CT and the late Robert Byrd of WV) are no longer in the Senate. Evan Bayh, who was the first Senator to ever threaten to filibuster his own party's bill, and indeed was the first to do so before the bill made it to the floor for debate, is also gone, though he seems to have had a deathbed conversion vis a vis autocratic obstructionism.
So where does that leave us?
It takes 50+1 to change Senate rules upon the convening of a new Congress. And of those in the current Senate, Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, Jay Rockefeller, Mark Pryor, Dianne Feinstein, Daniel Akaka, Carl Levin, and Jon Tester are going to need convincing. Four of them need to vote yes in order for a change to be made.
It's going to be an interesting first session, I tells you.
After that, my advice to Democrats is to pass jobs bill after jobs bill in the Senate. Simple pieces of legislation whose impact on employment can be easily quantified. And keep a running tally of the number of jobs that would be added to the economy had it not been for Republicans refusal to move on legislation simply because it was passed by Democrats. Run three-second TV spots featuring the number and a URL with the details and phone numbers for local Senators and Representatives. Either something will give, or the American People will know why it didn't.