Tuesday, June 30, 2009

With Franken Finally A Minnesota Senator, Can Filibuster-Proof Democrats Unite?

Minnesota finally has a second senator after eight months of legal wrangling. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in Al Franken's favor–not the first time a legal body had ruled for him–and Republican incumbent Norm Coleman conceded defeat. In his victory speech, Franken outlined priorities that all progressives welcome:

Franken: Working with our fantastic senior senator Amy Klobuchar, I'm going to fight hard to make quality health care accessible and  affordable to all Minnesotans. To make sure that our kids have an education that prepares them for a 21st century economy. To make Minnesota the epicenter of a new, renewable energy economy that frees us from our dependence on foreign oil. To restore our standing in the world and put people to work here at home.

Coleman may have kept this legal circus going because he and his backers knew that with Franken, the Democrats would have a filibuster-proof 60 vote majority. That would strengthen President Obama in fighting for initiatives that Republicans loathe, including providing health care for all through a public option.

I'd be less of a curmudgeon, however, if I didn't warn my fellow Democrats not to celebrate excessively. Yes, be pleased. But remember the words of Will Rogers: "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." Consider health care legislation. We now have a filibuster-proof majority. Millions of Americans are going without health insurance, and the costs continue to rise. A majority wants a government-run, public option and are willing to pay higher taxes for it. So the trends are better than ever for passage of health care reform. With all that, Obama will have his hands full keeping wayward Democrats in line:

Some Democrats are privately pushing the president to do more to bring his party in line. When Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, went to Capitol Hill last week, the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, pressed for the president to intervene more directly to settle Democrats’ disputes over Mr. Obama’s call for a government-run insurance plan to compete with the private sector, two people familiar with the session said.

Mr. Emanuel, in an e-mail message, acknowledged that some Democrats “wanted more direct and specific involvement,” but said others were happy with the president’s level of engagement, adding, “We received a lot of advice.”

Are 60 Democrats enough to accomplish Obama's legislative agenda? Here's one more piece of advice: get a few more Democrats elected to be on the safe side.


fleud said...

The question is will the Democrats use this numerical "weapon" or continue in their craven ways.

Jeff Tone said...

Fleud: I hope for the former and fear for the latter.