Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Blue Dog Insurrection

There's nothing quite like a good old-fashioned ass whoopin' to bring out the best in Democrats. Less than two weeks after the election that cost them their Senate majority, the remaining Blue Dogs - all six of them - are up in arms. Joe Manchin, Claire McCaskill, Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Heidi Heitkamp and Jon Tester were extremely vocal in their displeasure at Democratic leadership, particularly the leadership of the now former Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. All of them voted against Reid to remain as leader and, worse, all of them indicated that they would be open to voting with the new Republican majority on bills they find acceptable.

Allowing for the obvious politics involved - all except Warner will face tough reelections in 2018 - the threat presents a real test for Reid and his caucus. Assuming Mary Landrieu loses her runoff next month - a forgone conclusion, in my opinion - the GOP will hold 54 seats next year. If all six of these Blue Dogs abandon ship and vote lock step with the new majority, Republicans will reach the 60-vote threshold necessary to overcome a filibuster. To make matters worse, Angus King, the independent from Maine, has hinted he may not caucus with the Democrats in the nest Congress. Even if he doesn't officially bolt, he won't hesitate to vote Red if it suits his interests.

Knowing what's at stake, Reid tossed a bone to his Blue Dogs by appointing one of them, Tester, to chair the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He's even allowing an up and down vote on the Keystone Pipeline in a futile attempt to save Landrieu's seat. The measure should pass and will likely be vetoed by President Obama.

But while Reid will have his hands full keeping Republicans from jamming their agenda through, it's not like McConnell will have a cake walk. For one thing, it's not a given that he will be able to keep his own caucus in line. Ted Cruz and his band of merry men and woman (Joni Ernst) promise to make life a living hell for him. The Tea Party hates compromise and nothing turns their stomachs more than striking deals with the enemy. Secondly, even if everything goes McConnell's way and he gets the 60 votes to pass his bills, he doesn't have the votes to overcome Obama's veto pen. So, either way, he could be screwed.

Ironic, isn't it? Now that McConnell has finally achieved his life-long dream of being Senate majority leader, he'll likely find out what his counter part has known for the last eight years: that it's a whole lot easier wanting to be leader than being one. As for Reid, if he can thread this needle till 2016, when the Dems will have a much better electoral map, it'll be his greatest accomplishment yet.

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