Monday, July 14

Making Sense of the Senate

By Bob Kobzowicz who is contemplating what his first blog will be about

I wonder what makes the world of politics so captivating. Maybe because politicians affect my life more than I like. They have the ability to fund wars and at the other extreme they also determine how much water must be used every time my new toilet flushes.

In Presidential election years it is so easy to lose sight of the congressional elections. But this year you may want to also keep your focus on the Senate races as we may see the reality of a filibuster-proof Senate.

The Senate is designed to be the deliberative body. It is the legislative body that is designed to slow down progress when it is moving too fast. Their members are elected to six year terms and, theoretically, are more apt to make wise decisions that may in fact be unpopular. An individual Senator has the right to speak on an issue and stop all proceedings. This is called a filibuster.

Jimmy Stewart starred in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington about a small town hero using the power of the filibuster to stop the forces of Washington politics. However, at this time next year, we may see a Senate blazing at full speed ahead. The result would be legislation passing at a speed not seen in our recent past.

The filibuster is not all powerful in the senate. It does have its limits and can be stopped. Senators are able to vote for something called cloture. No not closure, which would actually be a better name for it. To stop the debate and cause a vote, sixty Senators must vote for cloture. Otherwise the filibuster is allowed to continue, debate will never end, and the matter will never come up for a vote.

This gives the minority party a lot of power as long as they have 41 votes. If the majority can never get 60 votes, then they can't force an item to come up for a vote. A little undemocratic don’t you think?

This is all relevant because currently there are 50 Democrats plus Independent Joe Lieberman from Connecticut which gives the Democrats their majority. Polls are indicating that all the Republican seats up for re-election could conceivably go Democratic. Here are some races to keep you eye on:

Virginia: Retiring Republican John Warner, no relation to opponent former Gov. Mark Warner-D who should win.

New Mexico: Retiring Republican Pete Domenci. Tom Udall-D is doing well with voters.

New Hampshire: Senator John Sununu-R facing former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen-D who should win.

Colorado: Retiring Republican Allard. Mark Udall-D (cousin of above) may win.

Minnesota: Senator Norm Coleman-R could lose to Saturday Night Live star Al Franken-D.

Alaska: Senator Ted Stevens-R is currently under investigation by the FBI and the IRS.

Mississippi: Senator Roger Wicker-R is in a close race against former Gov. Musgrove-D.

Oregon: Senator Gordon Smith-R shouldn’t lose to Jeff Merkley-D, but who knows this year.

Maine: Senator Susan Collins-R should be safe against Tom Allen-D, but again, who knows.

The only Democratic seat that may go Republican is Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, partly due to the number of voters who left the state after Katrina and have not returned.

A Democratic president, with a filibuster-proof Senate, could enact whatever legislation he desires. Unfortunately, my home state of Pennsylvania does not have a Senate race this year so all I can do is sit around and watch. And you should be watching too.


The Gang's All Here! said...

Nicely laid out, Mr. Bob! Good to hear your voice in the blogosphere. And now I'll be watching to see what your first blog will be like, too! :)


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