Poor Nancy,..Squeak, Squeak, Squeak!
For all of the dire warnings and pre-election commotion about the impact of a Democratic majority in Congress, the fact is that – now that it is upon us – it can do little or nothing but harass the administration.
There is no real danger of any legislative action emerging from this Congress. Yes, the president has a veto the Democrats cannot override, but nothing will ever make it as far as the desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are just spinning their wheels.
In the Senate, there is no such thing as a majority. Ever since the elder Bush's administration, the filibuster has become routine. No longer reserved for civil-rights issues or for egregious legislation, it now is used to counter even motions for recess and adjournment. Members of the Senate are no longer subjected to the indignity of standing on their feet and reading a telephone book. Rather, the gentlemen’s filibuster applies.
The majority leader phones the minority leader and asks if a filibuster is in effect. With his feet up on his desk, the Republican replies that it is and the Democrat, despite his majority, does not even think about bringing up his bill for consideration unless he has a good shot at the 60 votes required to shut off debate. In the Senate, 51 votes determine who gets the corner office, but to pass legislation, one needs 60.
In the House of Representatives, with its 435 members, the Republican Party needed a simple majority – 218 – to rule. The Democrats need considerably more. The normal rules of a mathematical majority do not take into account the fractious nature of the Democratic Party.
Where the Republican majority best resembled the Prussian Army – disciplined, unified and determined – the Democratic majority in the upcoming Congress is disunited, dispersed and divided into myriad caucuses and special interest groups. One could purchase the Republican majority wholesale by making a deal with the speaker and the majority leader. But to get the Democratic majority in line, one has buy it retail — caucus by caucus.
Nancy Pelosi will face the same obstacle. By the time her legislation emerges from the lower chamber, it will bear little resemblance to what she had in mind, liberal as that might have been. As Clinton said, after he watched the mangling of his legislative program by the various caucuses in the House, “I didn’t even recognize myself.”
Once the highly amended liberal legislation emerges from the House, it will make easy fodder for a Senate filibuster. So left leaning that it stands no chance of attracting 60 votes, it will be dead-on-arrival.
So forget the nightmares about an amended Patriot Act or restrictions on wiretapping for homeland security. Don’t worry about House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel’s, D-N.Y., ravings about the draft or the rumors of a tax increase. It's not going to happen.
What is the Democratic majority good for? One thing and one thing only – to give their party control of the committees and the subpoena power that goes with it. The two House Democratic majority can only make noise and make trouble. It can’t pass legislation.