I no longer remember who said this and wish I did so I could credit him for the observation and its particular saliency today. I believe it was someone I met at the GOP convention in 2008. What he said was simple, that as long as Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had the votes to sustain a filibuster, he’d all but run the Senate, given the Kentuckian’s mastery of Senate rules and procedure.
It’s no wonder Democrats tried so hard to defeat McConnell in 2008 and moved heaven and earth to get up to sixty in the Senate, playing hardball in the Minnesota recount, courting Arlen Specter until he gave in. All those efforts which offered big-time payoffs for the Democrats in 2009 led to the atmosphere which made it possible for a Republican to win in Massachusetts.
Dubbing McConnell “the new king of Capitol Hill”, Fred Barnes observes:
His skill in keeping 40 Republicans united against Democratic health care reform was masterful, and it wasn’t easy. A number of Republican senators are drawn to co-sponsoring or at least voting for Democratic bills. Not this time.
By keeping his minority together, McConnell put enormous pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had to keep every Democrat in line to gain the 60 votes need to halt a Republican filibuster. On health care, it meant he had to make unseemly deals with a host of senators, most egregiously in the Medicaid payoff to Nebraska to appease Senator Ben Nelson. Reid got the votes, but the deals were political poison.
And now he has 41 votes, indeed 41 very secure votes, given that the two Republicans most likely to vote with the Democrats come from Maine, a New England state with a higher percentage of Republicans than Scott Brown’s Massachusetts.
So, with the Kentucky Republican saying, “The president ought to take this as a message to recalibrate how he wants to govern and if he wants to govern from the middle we’ll meet him there,” the Democrat should listen. Because nothing is moving through the Senate any more without his say-so.