And then there were 59.
The shocking jump by Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter from the Republican Party puts a filibuster-resistant majority of Democratic senators within President Obama's grasp. And, as Jon Stewart put it Tuesday on "The Daily Show," "it appears that the Senate's balance of power -- in many respects, the future of our nation -- now lies in the hands of Al Franken."
So how big is this last undecided Senate race of 2008? Karen Tumulty at Swampland (1) gives us a little historical perspective:
You have to go all the way back to 1937 to find the last American President who enjoyed what was, in practice, a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, according to Senate Associate Historian Donald Ritchie. ... From then until the late 1980s, the two parties in the Senate were too fractious internally to really function as a filibuster-proof majority. (For much of that time, it took a two-thirds vote to overcome a filibuster; in 1975, the Senate changed its rule so that it could cut off debate if 60 Senators voted to do so.) ... With Arlen Specter's switch (and assuming... that Al Franken ever gets sworn in), Barack Obama has the Magic 60 Votes -- and an opportunity that his predecessors would greatly have envied.
David Frum (2) agreed that the power now lies with the Minnesota Supreme Court:
With Arlen Specter's defection, all that stands between the Democrats and a 60-seat Senate majority are Norman Coleman's lawyers. I wish them every success -- but they have not exactly been on a winning streak to date. Which means that Democrats won't need to resort to unorthodox tactics to push, say, their healthcare bill through Congress. They'll have the votes. ... The Specter defection is too severe a catastrophe to qualify as a "wake-up call." His defection is the thing we needed the wake-up call to warn us against! For a long time, the loudest and most powerful voices in the conservative world have told us that people like Specter aren't real Republicans -- that they don't belong in the party. Now he's gone, and with him the last Republican leverage within any of the elected branches of government.
Although most legal commentators say the chances that Coleman can get the state's high court to overturn the ruling of the election contest panel in favor of Franken are slim at best, Eric at Tygrrrr Express (3) said he -- and the party -- must fight on.
The national party must flood Norm Coleman with money in Minnesota so that Al Franken never becomes that 60th seat. Coleman will be under heavy pressure to quit, even though Al Gore was allowed to nearly provoke a constitutional crisis. Liberals never resign with honor. They hang on kicking and screaming. Norm Coleman must hang on and win. Otherwise Democrats will continue to try and steal elections because they will (correctly) conclude that Republicans will not fight to the end.
But Christopher Hayes at the Nation (4) doesn't think that the Specter defection will have that much of an effect on how business is done in Washington:
The basic power dynamics in the Senate remain somewhat unchanged. The fact is that the fulcrum of the entire agenda is a collection of about six or so self-described "moderate" senators: [Susan] Collins, [Olympia] Snowe, [Arlen] Specter, [Ben] Nelson, [Kent] Conrad, [Evan] Bayh, and it doesn't matter a whole lot what letter they have in front of their name.Don't know much about history
Someone on Rep. Michele Bachmann's staff needs to introduce the lawmaker to Wikipedia. If someone had, she could have avoided becoming a national laughingstock -- again.
On Tuesday, the congresswoman said, "I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. And I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."
Not so much, writes Steve Benen (5):
Bachmann apparently sees some significance in the fact that the last flu epidemic occurred under a Democratic president. Except, of course, it didn't. Not only is Bachmann drawing some kind of bizarre connection that only she understands, she also doesn't realize who was president in 1976. (It was Gerald Ford, a Republican.)
A day earlier, on the floor of the House, Bachmann blamed President Franklin Roosevelt for turning a recession into a depression through his support of the "Hoot-Smalley" tariffs. If only she had Googled, says John B. Judis at the Plank (6) (who perhaps should have done so himself before spelling her name).
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman is blaming the Great Depression on Franklin Roosevelt's support for the "Hoot-Smalley Act." Before ganging up on Bachman for mistaking "Hoot-Smalley" for "Smoot-Hawley" or for attributing its passage to Roosevelt (it happened under Hoover) or for saying that Calvin Coolidge had to deal with a worse recession than Roosevelt did (he didn't -- and she is probably thinking of the recession that happened under Harding), note that Bachman really made an innocent mistake. She was clearly conflating Smoot and Hawley with the Roy Smalley III, the Minnesota Twins shortstop.
1 Swampland • swampland.blogs.time.com
2 David Frum • newmajority.com
3 Tygrrrr Express • tygrrrrexpress.com
4 Christopher Hayes • thenation.com/blogs/jstreet
5 Steve Benen • washingtonmonthly.com
6 The Plank • blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_plank
Editor's note: Blog items are excerpted but are not corrected for style or spelling
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