Third Party & Independents Archives

Don’t cheer yet, control of the Senate for the next two years is far from permanent

The composition of the Senate on the first business day of 2007 will be 49 Republicans, 49 Democrats and 1 Independent and 1 Socialist. The latter two will determine control of the Senate; if either becomes aligned with the Republicans, the house remains under Republican control. At the same time, the Bush administration will be looking at strategies to regain control. How does Justice Lieberman sound?

In the upcoming Congress there will be two Senators who are not members of a major political party: Joe Lieberman (I) and Bernie Sanders (Socialist). It is clear that Sanders will caucus with the Democrats, giving them 50 seats. In a post on August 25th, I suggested that should the election produced a 50 (D) – 49 (R) split and Lieberman wins as an Independent, he will hold the power to determine which party rules. As expected, he won and we are faced with that situation.

Ironically, Joe Lieberman, the so called "pseudo Republican" survived his overthrow and emerged with increased power. Instead of being just another Democratic Senator (had Lamont not run) or removed from office (as progressives wished), he single handedly, holds the control of the Senate. This is a progressive Democrat's worst nightmare. He not only was not removed, but emerged with increased power.

The specter of a moderate independent Joe Lieberman will continue to hold a Sword of Damocles over the Senate. We can assume that he will caucus with the Democrats, giving him a committee chairmanship. But, it will be in the party-line votes that his presence will be felt. Since he is not constrained by a party line, he is free to vote his conscience. This power is something that would not have been available had he won as a Democrat.

But, don't count the Bush administration out. These are the people who brought us the nuclear option. The clue to their next move is also based upon the Connecticut election. Many have speculated that this will be Lieberman's last term. He has been successfully challenged within the party and owes his electoral success to a weak Republican candidate. He will be looking for his next job. While the citizens of Connecticut almost produced a Democratic sweep, one office remained in securely in Republican hands: the governorship, held by M. Jodi Rell, a Republican.

The most obvious strategy to regain control lies with the Supreme Court. I predict that Joe Lieberman will be Bush's next appointee for the Court, should an opening appear. The key to this strategy lies with his replacement in the Senate. Governor Rell is certain to appoint a Republican as a replacement, thereby eliminating the Democrats one seat advantage.

For Bush, this produces a win-win strategy. He will demonstrate bipartisanship. He will submit a moderate candidate who comes from the ruling party within the Senate. With Lieberman’s strong religious values, he will be acceptable to the Christian Right. He provides Lieberman with a lifetime, influential future. And, most importantly, he restores Republican dominance in the Senate.

Posted by M.L. Schneider at November 10, 2006 1:00 PM
Comment #194471

Lieberman is pro-choice. There is no way the Christian Right would ever get behind him for the bench.

As a liberal, I would gladly give up Senate control in exchange for Justice Lieberman. When it comes to the kind of issues SCOTUS will be hearing, Lieberman is as blue as they come. I would prefer Sen. Lamont, but I would cheer Justice Lieberman.

Posted by: David S at November 10, 2006 1:58 PM
Comment #194474

The House is where the major Republican corruption was. There is more comity in the Senate so a narrowly divided Senate isn’t nearly as big a deal.

Besides Democrats should have a pretty substantial majority in the Senate after 2008 when 21 Republican incumbents have to defend their seats compared to only 12 Democrats.

And do you really believe Bernie Sanders is a threat to defect to the Republicans?

Posted by: Walker Willingham at November 10, 2006 2:21 PM
Comment #194476

That’s just not going to happen with Lieberman.

Lieberman is a neocon and Bush is a social conservative: the only thing they agree about is foreign policy, and the Supreme Court’s influence on foreign policy is minimal at best.

Also, I think you overestimate the Republicans desire to have a one seat majority during the next two years. They’d prefer it, but aren’t about to pay heavily for it because there is arguably a big upside heading into 08 as the minority party. There are a lot of conservative to moderate Democratic senators in that mix, and anyway, they still hold the Prediential veto to head off anything coming out of Congress that they don’t like.

Also, don’t forget about the fillibuster—that’s always in the toobox should it come to that.

Posted by: Neo-Con Pilsner at November 10, 2006 2:36 PM
Comment #194477

I don’t buy this idea that Joe Lieberman has the Democrats by the balls.

First of all, he has repeatedly said he would caucus with the Democrats if he can keep his seniority. He spokesman just said this again. So if he switched sides, he would be undermining very reputation for integrity that Republicans claim to admire in him.

The other problem is that he isn’t the only one who can claim to control the fate of the Senate. ANY ONE of the 51 Democratic Senators can go to Harry Reid and threaten to jump ship.

So suppose, for example, that big Iraq appropriations bill is up for a vote and Lieberman threatens to switch sides if the Democrats don’t support the bill. Another senator can threaten to switch sides if the Democrats DO support the bill.

And of course, any senator can threaten a filibuster.

Posted by: Woody Mena at November 10, 2006 2:37 PM
Comment #194478

And the Supreme Court? Bush would not nominate someone who is known to be pro-choice if you pointed a gun at his head.

Posted by: Woody Mena at November 10, 2006 2:39 PM
Comment #194488

It is a moot point. I just read that Lieberman is in line to become the director of homeland security. And he has been told that he will retain his seniority within the democratic ranks. He says he will begin his term standing with the dems.

Posted by: ILdem at November 10, 2006 3:28 PM
Comment #194502

“And, most importantly, he restores Republican dominance in the Senate.”

Until veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the Connecticut legislature pass a law that requires a special election to be held 90 days after a Senate resignation.

Then Senator Lamont walks into office for 5 years and 9 months.

Posted by: Arr-squared at November 10, 2006 4:31 PM
Comment #194505


“Until veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the Connecticut legislature pass a law that requires a special election to be held 90 days after a Senate resignation.”

I not sure I understand this comment. Are you saying that such a law is in the works?

Posted by: Tim Crow at November 10, 2006 4:52 PM
Comment #194720

Please read my post. I said that both Lieberman and Sanders would caucus with the Democrats.

As to the possibility that Bush would appoint Lieberman. It is unlikely that the current Democratic majority in the Judiciary committee would support a pro life appointee. So a compromise appointee is necessary. Since Bush is a lame duck President with a Democratic Congress he will do the best he can. He no longer has a majority in the Senate to rubberstamp his choices and the nuclear option no longer is a possibility. I doubt he has the clout to push through his first choice. With other battles to fight and little chance of getting an optimum appointee through the Senate, he will take the path of least resistance.

Posted by: M.L. Schneider at November 12, 2006 6:51 AM
Comment #194722

M.L., you may be right about Bush, but, I doubt it. He is a lame duck president, but, I believe he will prove with every ounce of energy that he is still very much a LIVE duck president intent on representing what he believes are Republican values.

We’ll see.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 12, 2006 7:55 AM
Comment #194797

David, you may be right, but in the case of SCOTUS, he will be faced with a situation where he must work with congress.

Posted by: M.L. Schneider at November 12, 2006 9:17 PM
Comment #194837

“Work with Congress” can take on many a meaning beyond the conventional and common sensical.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 13, 2006 8:14 AM
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