Do the Dems Have 60 Senators Or Not?


Now that Al Franken will soon be seated, the Democrats finally have their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Or do they? Steve Benen says “talk of the Democrats’ ‘magic number’ is misplaced,” and points to Joshua Green’s argument that, with Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy both in ill-health, the actual logistics of getting sixty Democrats to the Senate floor to cast a vote are still pretty tough (although one imagines that Kennedy might simply will himself there to cast a vote on health care, the cause for which he’s worked most of his life). Benen also reminds us that “the 60-seat Democratic caucus includes Ben Nelson. And Joe Lieberman. And Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln and their merry band of Blue Dogs,” making passing actual liberal legislation difficult.

Also riffing off the problems with getting progressive legislation through Congress, Ezra Klein says that real reform may be simply impossible:

The implicit assumption of these arguments about strategy is that there is, somewhere out there, a workable strategy. That there is some way to navigate our political system such that you enact wise legislation solving pressing problems. But that’s an increasingly uncertain assumption, I think.

That may be true. But Democrats should know that it’s unlikely that voters—or, for the matter, the mainstream media—will accept any of those excuses. Yes, these things are hard. Barack Obama said so himself, many times, on the campaign trail. But Democrats and liberals are in the most powerful position they’ve been in at least 30 years, and probably since the Great Society. Senators, including Nelson & Co, are real people with real decision-making abilities. Either they’ll fix health care, address the energy crisis, and get the economy moving, or they won’t. But pretending that you’re going to be able to deflect the blame for not addressing the country’s problems when you control both houses of Congress and the White House is folly. It may not be fair, but people expect results. Yes, 60 isn’t a magic number. Yes, there are Ben Nelson-types in the caucus. Yes, the entire political system is messed up. Deal with it.

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