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Reflections the Day after the Republican Tsunami

November 3, 2010 by Somebody Else

Yesterday was a good day for the Republican Party, which managed to recapture the majority in the House and significantly reduced the Democratic majority in the Senate. Democrat Nancy Pelosi must now step down as Speaker of the House and Republican John Boehner will take her place. However, beating the odds and expectations of those who thought he was finished because of his widespread unpopularity, Democrat Harry Reid retained his Senate seat and position as Senate Majority Leader.

Understandably, there is plenty of gloating going on among Republican sympathizers, who see yesterday's election results as a far-reaching repudiation of President Obama and his legislative agenda. There is fevered talk floating around about repealing the recently passed health care bill. Could it happen? Perhaps in the theory it could, but most legal analysis pundits appearing on television these days are fairly unified on their views regarding this matter, which is to say that they don't see it happening.

Despite all of the media hoopla, have things really changed all that much because of yesterday's election? Maybe they have, but maybe not. Actually, the bigger story from yesterday might have to do with the Republican landslide among state legislators in a number of states. This will lead to Republican-led efforts to redesign state electoral districts throughout the nation, which will in turn favor Republican representation in both the House and the Senate for several years to come. Stay tuned.

But let's take a hard look at the Congress we'll have for the next two years. However, before we do that, let's take a look back at the one we've had for the last two years.

Obama came hard out of the starting gate in January of 2009. He had decisive majorities in both houses of Congress. Well, let me correct that. He had a largely filibuster-proof majority in the House, that's true, but in the Senate he only just barely had a filibuster-proof majority. It was that "just barely" in the Senate that forced him to accept a watered-down version of his health care bill, which was held up for as long as possible by the unified obstructionism of Republicans as well as by the demands of conservative Democrats and Independent Joe Lieberman. In the end, Obama only managed to "ram through" a mere fraction of what he would have liked to, whether with regard to health care or his other legislative priorities. Thank God he managed to "ram through" something, though, since when you go up against a barricade of well-funded and corporate-backed elite obstructionists, you'd better be prepared to use some force. As the president learned the hard way, you can't finesse your way through a brick wall.

So, what will Obama have for the next two years, at least? Well, first of all, let's take a look at what the Republicans won't have. First of all, they will not have a legislative mandate. If the Republican majority in the House approves a bill that faces unified Democratic opposition, it will most likely be defeated in the Democrat-controlled Senate. But let's imagine that both the House and the Senate somehow end up approving a Republican-led bill. Can it get past Obama without being vetoed? My guess is probably not. Nonetheless, I would quite frankly be rather surprised to see Obama veto any bills over the next two years, simply because I can't imagine the Republicans in Congress getting their act together enough to pass anything that would even make it to the president's desk. There just doesn't seem to be enough bipartisan spirit to make it happen.

So, with regard to Congress, what do we have to look forward to for the next two years? In my view, barring some dramatic and unexpected developments, a whole lot of nothing. If you thought that the gridlock was bad for the last two years, folks, you ain't seen nothing yet. We might go two solid years without one single piece of major legislation getting passed.

So, maybe it was a Republican tsunami to some, but I would liken it more to a tidal wave of molasses. Now, we're all stuck in one place. And that's pretty much how the Republicans like it. They're all about preserving the status quo, after all.

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