Wednesday, December 3, 2008


A 60-seat Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate is out of reach after Sen. Saxby Chambliss's (R-Ga.) comfortable win in the runoff election Tuesday. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) also looks like the slight favorite in his recount effort. Having nearly 60 seats, though, will give Senate Democrats sizable power.

Barack Obama continues to fill his administration posts with alumni of Bill Clinton's administration, including his recent picks of Hillary Clinton as secretary of State and Bill Richardson as Commerce secretary. Many Obama picks have serious liabilities, ethical and ideological, but it would be out of character for Republicans to put up serious resistance to high-level Democratic nominations.

Obama's immense political capital and popularity with his base are evidenced by the muted blowback to his picking hawkish Clinton and Bush-holdover Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for his national security team. These picks can be seen slaps in the face to his left-wing base that (naively) believed they were getting a peace president, but Obama doesn't seem to suffer from them.

Early signals from the GOP minority—on the auto bailout and in their leadership elections and conference rule changes—signal a party comfortable having little influence.

Alaska: Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who held a significant lead on Election Day, lost his re-election bid to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D).

This gives Senate Democrats their 56th seat in the next Congress, not counting independents Joe Lieberman ( Conn.) or Bernie Sanders ( Vt.). While it looks like the Democratic Caucus will never reach 60 seats, effectively having at least 58 votes gives the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority on most issues, unless the GOP leadership can exercise unprecedented discipline to prevent rogue members, such as Maine liberals Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins or Arlen SpecterJohn McCain (Ariz.)—from splitting from their GOP colleagues on breaking filibusters. (Pa.)—or "maverick"

Republicans will be spared the unpleasantness of voting on expelling Stevens from the GOP Conference, and the full Senate will be spared the possibility of expelling him from the chamber. Also, Alaska will be spared a special election.


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