Friday, November 14, 2008

Are The Congressional Democrats Having Their Power Diluted?

Just an idle thought for the day. There will be at least 7 new Democratic Senators in the new term, 5 from election turnovers, 1 to replace Barack Obama, and 1 to replace Joe Biden. There are still several elections undecided so the count could change. Finally, Obama is rumored to be looking at Congressional members for his cabinet. One specific example is the rumors surrounding Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Further, there are at least 20 new Democratic House members.

So the question is, are the Democrats diluting their clout in Congress? I am not trying to imply that they will not be in control, they clearly will. The question though is how will the infusion of as many as 9 - 10 new Senators and 20 or more new House members effect the way they function.

Some of the Democrats leaving, Obama, Biden, Clinton possibly, among others, are old line liberals. A lot of the replacements are more moderate, this is how they got elected. In none of the states in which Democrats took over a seat did they do it by running a true liberal.

Further changing the dynamic of Congress are the members elected in 2006. Many of these are moderate Democrats with some of them actually tending conservative.

This rapid change over in the last two years will effect the way the Democrats rule in two ways.

First is the more moderate/conservative outlook of the new members. This will make it hard for the old hard left leaders to push ultra liberal legislation. This has been apparent in the House. Nancy Pelosi, about as far left as they come, has had a hard time getting these new members to fall into line behind her. She has had to negotiate and compromise on some legislation to get it passed. This will likely be the same scenario in the Senate with Harry Reid. There has even been talk although very unlikely, that one or the other could be challenged for their leadership position.

The second way the new members could effect the dynamics is because of lack of seniority and the clout that comes with it. While clearly the sheer numbers will give the new members significant clout, there is no substitute for being able to twist arms and make deals with old friends. Like it or not, this is how our Congress is run.

Finally, these new members may not let their arms be twisted as easy. A lot of them know they got in because of the arrogance and ingrained power hunger of the Republicans they defeated or replaced. They may be more likely to be independent and more mindful of hewing to the wishes of the voters in their respective state or district. Additionally, they have yet to have any debts or favors to repay among their peers so this could make them more likely to stick to their guns.

The popular thought is that if the Democrats got to 57 or 58 members in the Senate, they could effectively have a filibuster proof majority with some defections from liberal leaning Republicans.

The same is true of the House. There is a thought that they are getting close to a super majority in which they can push through legislation without much of a fight.

It is possible that this may be an oversimplification.

We may see 3 or 4 delicately put together ideological coalitions in both the House and the Senate that will cause some consensus building on the part of the leadership to get legislation passed. We saw this in the bailout package. The Democrats had enough members to pass the legislation but they could not get all of them to sign on to it, they needed Republican votes to pass the bill.

The point is, this may not be the far left Congress that the Democratic leadership and Barack Obama hoped for and that we feared. Time will tell.


The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

I'm wondering how blue dog democrats like Jim Webb are voting on issues; if they are going with their party on most bills, or acting like DINOs.

Brooke said...

I don't think the power will be diluted. Any leaving by appt' get to hand-pick their replacement, don't they, or am I mistaken?

If so, the hard-liners will likely pick someone in their image.

cube said...

I'm not holding my breath over these new dems voting anything but the most liberal nonsense in the world. I'll gladly be wrong.

MK said...

"...this may not be the far left Congress that the Democratic leadership and Barack Obama hoped for and that we feared."

Now there's a hopeful thought. I see where you are coming from, the democrats know how they got those positions and they know if they veer too far to the left, at the next election, the public will boost them further to the left and out the door.

Dare i say it, politicians afraid of those that voted for them, their masters? Now there's some change you can believe in.

Greywolfe said...

Here's the problem with new dems in Congress. They are freshmen. Which means that Nancy Pelosi basically tells them what they think. The pecking order in Congress is ingrained to the point of being law itself. Nancy Pelosi will just point out, as she did in the last election, that the new "moderate" dems will tow the line or get no help come time for re-election.

As for the senate, just look at the hatchet job their doin with Lieberman. The point they are making is obvious, you don't tow the line we can you.

Chuck said...

I personally detest Jim Webb so I don't want his help, but your point is taken, there are a lot like him that may not be walking in lockstep with the Dims.

Brooke, true, but it does't mean they will vote this way if they do not feel they are in guaranteed safe seat.

Cube, I tend to agree, it was just a thiking out loud exercise.

MK, it would be nice but we thought the GOP would behave themselves also, it's matter of power corrupting.

Greywolfe, Pelosi is having a little trouble with her newer Dems.

Z said...

"A lot of the replacements are more moderate, this is how they got elected"

These words alone in this terrific piece were a salve for my soul...
you're the BALM, Chuck! (heh heh..little play on words there. Okay, VERY little!?)

I understand that a lot of the new Dems in Congress are moderates...that can't be bad.

Chuck said...

Z, this may all be wishful thinking but I think it's possible.