Is "41 is the new "60" because Scott Brown was sworn in as the junior Republican Senator of Massachusetts?
60 was the number of votes needed to pass substantive (excluding some budgetary) legislation and to bust up any filibuster attempt in the Senate. 60 seats is how many the Democrat Caucus held in the Senate. 60 is the number of votes the Democrats had to pass health care - but didn't. 60 is the number of votes they had to pass the Employee Free Choice (HA!) Act - and they didn't. 60 is the number of votes they need to confirm a Supreme Court justice which brings me to my first point.
According to ABC.com, there are 2 Supreme Court justices that are considering retirement or that ABC thinks may retire sometime in the near future. So which is more important now, 41 or 60? My belief is 41. I know that Justice Sotomoyer was confirmed by a larger margin than the 60 votes, but her vote really did not upset the balance of power on the court. I still disagree with her confirmation because of many of her stances and association with groups like La Raza. However, if Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens retire, it will be extremely difficult for President Obama to replace the 2 justices, especially Ginsburg, with truly liberal judges. Therefore, the ideological leanings of the court could change which could have a large impact on cases heard in front of the Supreme Court. It is also possible that the 5-4 splits that have been taking place over the last few years could go 6-3. It will be interesting to see if the GOP can stay together long enough to filibuster any judge nominee they deem too liberal - good ole 41.
But then again....
Maybe 1 is the new 60. It will only take one GOP defector to break their own filibuster or vote with the other side of the aisle to pass something. I am definitely pointing the finger at Senators Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, John McCain, Dick Lugar, and George Voinovich who don't hold to the conservative side on all the issues or are self proclaimed "mavericks".
Maybe 51 is the new 60. The Democrats have been talking about the "nuclear option" in regards to health care reform. The plan calls for passing a somewhat reduced version of health care reform as a piece of budgetary legislation, but that would require scrapping what they passed and going back to the drawing board. it's not impossible to do, and I wouldn't rule it out. This move would basically be political suicide, but the Democrats would still love to be able to hang their hat on health care reform and also hand President Obama some kind of victory within his first 2 years of office.
Finally, maybe 0 is the new 60. What President Obama can't get passed through Congress, he'll use the bureaucratic process at various government agencies to get the job done anyway. For instance, he might be able to get Card Check without having a Congressional vote via the National Labor Relations Board if Craig Becker gets through the Senate confirmation (he used to be a lawyer for SEIU and AFL-CIO). President Obama has already leveled the threat against Congress to use the EPA to enact Cap and Trade with or without Congressional help. What's stopping him for using other agencies or his multitude of czars to enact other policies that Congress for the most part has had or would not have a say in enacting? Then there is the backlash facing several incumbent Democrat Senators that are up for re-election. Many Senators once though "safe" are trailing badly in the polls or their approval ratings are below the magic 50%. If the Democrats and especially President Obama feel that all is lost in the Senate, they may not object to Congress being sidelined by government policy wonks and unelected government agents.
Whichever number you think is the new 60, the fallout from Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts is the equivalent to whacking a beehive with a stick. What ensues is mass hysteria as the once mostly peaceful and ordered world of the Senate has been turned upside down. While we hail Scott Brown has the stop gap against the Democrats railroading legislation through, we should not lose sight that Brown is not as conservative as people think. We should keep a close eye on him, especially as critical votes on a myriad of issues are set to present themselves in front of the Senate this year. So which number will it be - 41, 1, 51, or 0? Only time will tell.
Cross-posted at www.downstateiladvocate.com