Kal ZoneBlog

Republicans tighten their grip on the U.S. Senate

December 3, 2010

In the recent elections, the G.O.P. netted a gain of 6 Senate seats, from 41 to 47, an insurmountable advantage over the Democrats, who now only have 53.

This has prompted Republican Senator Mitch McConnell to proclaim that the midterm election results have given his party a mandate to block any legislation advanced by Senate Democrats. After all, in the incoming Congress they will hold a 47-53 advantage, and, as everyone knows, 60 votes are now required to pass anything in the Senate.

While claiming to be "constitutional conservatives," G.O.P. Senators (and enabling pundits) argue that Senate actions should be constrained by the results of the latest House election. But didn't the Founding Fathers specify 6-year terms for Senators just so that they wouldn't be constrained by the passions and conventions of the moment?

And, yes, the composition of the Senate does reflect the will of the voters. Perhaps not the mood of the voters as shown by this week's opinion polls, but the will of the voters averaged over the 6-year terms served by Senators. In other words, a longer view.

In the longer view, continuing the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 per year would add $1 trillion to the national deficit over the next ten years. It also would be far less effective in stimulating economic growth than would an extension of unemployment benefits — an option now being held hostage by G.O.P. Senators.

But debating whether an economic policy works on not is beside the point. An economic recovery would only help Obama and the Democrats in the 2012 election. From the G.O.P. point of view, it makes more sense to keep the economy down — at least the "main street" economy, if not the "Wall Street" economy, which is doing quite well, thank you — so that voters remain pissed off enough at Obama to vote him out of office.

As Mitch McConnell has stated on several occasions, the main "policy" goal of the Senate G.O.P. is to get Obama out of office. The goal is to do what is best for the Party and its benefactors. What might be good for the country is completely beside the point.

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