51 is a magic number for Senate Democrats, and the country

51 is a magic number for Senate Democrats, and the country

There are many, many reasons to celebrate Rev. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s victory Tuesday. The first is that Georgia will be represented by an effective, principled, intelligent statesman. Sen. Warnock is everything you could ask in a public servant, and the people of Georgia—all the people—need that. The Senate most definitely needs all the serious people it can get. The Congress as a whole needs that, as does the nation. Because this one senator, by being the 51st Democratic senator and one of the brightest lights among them, changes everything.

With 51 votes, the Senate Democrats can actually get stuff done. So can Vice President Kamala Harris; she doesn’t need to be tethered to her desk in Washington, D.C., always on hand to run to the Capitol to cast a tie-breaking vote. The Senate committees can get stuff done, because Democrats get to structure those committees with their clear majority. It’s going to be a whole new Senate.

It’s worth remembering the acrimonious spirit with which Mitch McConnell entered working out the 50-50 powersharing agreement with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the beginning of this session. He “guaranteed” that he would make life hell for Democrats if they even thought about using their majority to get things done. He dragged out those talks for weeks with outrageous demands, forestalling any action by the Democratic-led Senate for a full month before finally accepting the deal.

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That deal hamstrung the committees in particular. While they were all officially under Democratic control, they were evenly divided between the two parties. Thus, Republicans could do things like not show up in legislative mark-ups or for nominee votes and deny a quorum to act. The tie votes in committee for a number of nominations drug the process of getting them confirmed by days and sometimes weeks. If a committee had a tied vote on a nominee, the full Senate would have to vote on a discharge petition to bring the nomination out of committee.

Setting up and conducting those votes took days. Then the Senate would have to go through the regular rigmarole of cloture votes to move a nomination to a final confirmation vote. The Senate calendar is often so gummed up by the required procedural delays, needing to have that one extra vote to get nominees out of committee could delay their confirmation by weeks and even months.

The Democratic majority can now move those nominees much more quickly and really pick the pace up in getting confirmations done. That’s good, because with the House now going to be under control of the maniacs, there’s not going to be a heck of a lot of legislating getting done. President Joe Biden will now have a chance to really get the federal courts filled up with some very good judges, because huge chunks of floor time will be freed up to do it.

Of course, with the maniacs in charge of the House, it’s’ going to be all bullshit “investigations” and hearings about the dick pics on Hunter Biden’s laptop and trying to impeach various cabinet members. The 51 seats Democrats will have means that the Senate committees can counter that bullshit with hearings and investigations of their own. Because with a simple majority, those committees will have subpoena power.

Those investigations that Democrats in the House are going to have to leave hanging could be picked up by the Senate. Though the Jan. 6 committee does intend to wrap up this month, there are still avenues of investigation that they’ve not been able to fully explore. The Senate could—and should—pick them up. The IRS just last week finally released six years of Donald Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, leaving very little time for them to do anything with it. Those could be transferred to the Senate Finance Committee for ongoing work on presidential taxes.

Politically, the necessity of countering House maniac bullshit with serious Senate investigations and hearings is essential.

There will still be headaches for Democrats, because Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema still exist. There is still not going to be an end to the legislative filibuster. But those two will have a lot less power.

VP Harris can still come in to break ties as necessary, so the one extra vote gives Manchin and Sinema less ability to shut things down, and more incentive to actually work with the majority to do things. But there’s still a Joe Manchin, in particular, and for now he’s still in charge of a key committee—Energy and Natural Resources. He’s just an asshole enough to potentially structure his committee to give Republicans equal say, to continue his co-chair relationship with Republican Lisa Murkowski.

There’s also a Dick Durbin problem at the Judiciary Committee. So far, he’s given Republicans veto power over district court judges—he’s still allowing them to withhold their blue slips, or agreement, on district judge nominees from their home states. That’s purely a courtesy the majority extends to the minority in the committee, it’s not a rule. It can be dispensed with so Biden has even more power to fill up the courts.

But these a relatively minor headache compared to what McConnell and crew have been able to do in the past two years of shared power. Fifty-one changes everything. And it will make Mitch McConnell hurt. That’s all good.

With the Republican Party gearing up to take the majority in the 2023 Congressional term, the disarray they have been experiencing the past six years is now at Keystone Cops-level hilarity. Markos and Kerry speak with Daily Kos Senior Staff Writer Joan McCarter. Joan covers the Congress day-in and day-out, and has done so for a decade. She gives Markos and Kerry an enjoyable blow-by-blow of the Republican mud wrestling match going on right now.


McConnell’s obstruction of Biden’s agenda has already begun

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