Byrd Released From Hospital; Dems Regain Senate Majority

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 15:30

Democrats have regained a one-seat majority in the Senate today. This is not only because Paul Kirk was appointed to temporarily fill Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts, but because Senator Robert Byrd was released from the hospital:

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) was released from the hospital Thursday following a 48-hour stay for observation. Byrd was taken to the hospital Tuesday after a fall at his Northern Virginia home.

Byrd had been hospitalized for quite some time back in the spring, and was only recently re-admitted. He actually cast a vote back on Friday, so he will be around to vote on health care.

For the first time all year, Democrats actually have 60 voting Senators. Given that they have shown no desire to challenge the Republican-fueled culture of the 60-vote Senate, this unfortunately means they only have a one-seat majority in the Senate. Sixty Democrats and forty Republicans are apparently worth almost exactly the same in terms of actual voting power.

With 60 votes, the push to pass health care and a public option will now focus on getting 60-votes to prevent a Republican filibuster, rather than reconciliation or the nuclear option. Even though, because of the nuclear option, only 51 votes can break any filibuster, that sort of aggressiveness just doesn't match up with the Democratic Senate caucus. Further, even though Senate experts say that a robust public option can be passed through reconciliation, Republicans will file procedural motions to require 60 votes for reconciliation to be approved. Even though the nuclear option can be used to dismiss those motions, as already noted Senate Democrats are not willing to use the nuclear option. Finally, at least one Democrat, the aforementioned Robert Byrd, switched to vote against the budget precisely because he doesn't want to use reconciliation for health care.

So, as Congress Matters reports, the focus for health care will be on getting all 60 Senate Democrats to vote for cloture, even if they vote against the final bill. While I still intend to launch a long-term campaign to eliminate the filibuster and restore majority rule in the Senate, in the short-term this appears to be the path we will go down.

Time for an up or down vote on health care. Let's see if finally getting 60 Democratic votes in the Senate was worth it.

Chris Bowers :: Byrd Released From Hospital; Dems Regain Senate Majority

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I think I'm changing my mind (0.00 / 0)
about the filibuster. I've been saying since 07 "get rid of it", and especially last January, but that's when I was still thinking Obama was going to lead the Dems in actually seeking a somewhat reformist agenda.

Now that it's very clear that it's going to be corporatism and legislative crime as usual for the forseeable future, no matter who has the nominal majority; that it looks like the best we can hope for on health care is to block a reactionary bill which would make things worse; and there's an excellent chance of the Reps regaining that majority anyway given how intent the Dems seem on suicide, maybe in general gridlock is the best thing until we find some way to elect more real reformers and not fake ones.

As incredible and sickening as this is, although true reform is centrist in the view of the people, it is in fact extremist within the Federal legislature.

I think there might be some value in getting rid of the filibuster (0.00 / 0)
and just letting whoever has a majority ramrod their agenda through Congress.  I believe that the American people will get the government they want and deserve.  If they want a Republican government and elect Republicans to majorities in Congress, they should get the full Republican treatment.  Let them - us - know the consequences of our political decisions.  Who knows, maybe it will increase civic awareness and voting participation.

[ Parent ]
HCR should get an up or down vote (4.00 / 1)
I do think this is the right strategy - we need to start pressuring centrist Senators to commit to an "up or down vote" on healthcare reform.  

Perhaps this issue should be polled as well.  If you ask, Do you believe that the healthcare reform being debated in the US Senate should be given an up or down vote?"  That's probably not the right wording, but in the end I bet the use of the filibuster to block reform will not poll as very popular.

This data could be used to pressure the centrists.  We should also go after the Maine Senators on this - if you can pick off even one R, this will give cover to Lieberman and the other craptacular "D"s.

well, i guess schadenfreude is what i'll be feeling (4.00 / 1)
towards all those folk so hung up on the 60 vote mythology for so long now. some of us have long felt that it is and always has been a form of Kabuki, a waiting for Godot sort of legislative routine, total BS. as you say, senate dems don't want to employ the nyu-ku-lar option (what a lovely piece of propaganda that has turned out to be), it is and always has been simply a matter of will, leadership, and party unity. republicans manage to demonstrate they can do such all the time, when they are in both a majority and a minority. dems on the other had are really two parties, DINOs and actual democrats. the long running cover of the 60 vote mythology has cloaked the DINOs and allowed them to be described in the oh-so-truthiness filled media as true democrats. now that cloak is taken away, at least for a little while.

but again, the political will on the part of the senators themselves just isn't there. i have no doubt the media and Dem party leadership will fashion another narrative to explain why they "can't" pass a useful health care bill, and may even "be forced" to pass something that really sucks and screws lots of people. meanwhile, it'll be interesting to see which commentators pretend they never asserted the 60 vote mythology as truth, and which will explain how we misunderstood all along, and the real ponies and rainbow number is, say, 66. or 666. whatever.

i've heard some call this the beginning of the split of the dem party, a civil war of sorts. you're going to get an up or down vote, maybe a couple of them even, but i suspect they are going to drag us through another act or two of additional Kabuki. long conferencing, much pearl clutching, speeches, addendums, near-clotures...i expect a great show. my prediction is that we'll get a bill, one that is almost exactly what moderate repulicans would design if they were in power, no republicans or very few will vote for the final version and just enough dems. dems will then declare victory over illness and that all newly taxed americans rejoice in their opportunity to be well by sending 1/4 of their income to barely regulated health insurance companies.

it won't serve the dems very well in the midterms, and may be the deciding step obama takes down the road to single term-hood and with that the loss of one or both houses for the dems.  

I wish Obama would start using this message (4.00 / 1)
He should start saying things like:

Folks, heathcare reform is too important to be held up by Senators reading out of the dictionary, wasting everyone's time - HCR is critical for our future and deserves to get an up or down vote in the Senate.

It's a good way to paint the opposition as resorting to childish tactics to preserve the status quo.

Framing the Issue (4.00 / 1)
I don't want to be "that guy," but don't we often complain about how we lack the proper frame and rhetoric...yet we're calling the option of breaking the 60 Vote Mythology the "Nuclear Option" suggests its a scorched-earth, hostile, undemocratic function. And forgive me if someone has already raised this complaint but it seems that if we ever reach the point of bypassing the need for 60 votes our frame will almost certainly prevent it from being employed.

let's see Kirk sworn in (0.00 / 0)
before we say there actually 60.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

Yeah, even though a 71 year old guy replacing Kennedy... (0.00 / 0)
...certainly won't be a long term Senator. Couldn't they find someone younger and more inspiring? A good progressive who  will successfully run for many reelections?

[ Parent ]
Given the ongoing special election (0.00 / 0)
the goal was to find someone who would expressly not run for reelection.

[ Parent ]
Yup, I know, but why? (0.00 / 0)
Why not give a good progressive, a worthy successor for Teddy, an additional advantage by letting him run as a incumbent? Hmm, didn't Kennedy make any proposals during his lifetime? No favorites?

[ Parent ]
re: filibuster (0.00 / 0)
Even though the nuclear option can be used to dismiss those motions, as already noted Senate Democrats are not willing to use the nuclear option.

can you imagine harry reid going nuclear?
and upset his republicrat buddies?
the guy is afraid of his own shadow...

I thought (0.00 / 0)
about your meeting with Clinton and the Nuclear option yesterday.

Using reconciliation came up in 1993, and Byrd shot it down.

I do not believe him when he says he hadn't heard of the nuclear option.  


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