After the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the normally rational -- if exuberant -- Rep. Barney Frank lost his damned mind.
"I am hopeful that some Republican senators will be willing to discuss a revised version of health care reform," Frank said in a statement. "Because I do not think that the country would be well served by the health care status quo. But our respect for democratic procedures must rule out any effort to pass a health care bill as if the Massachusetts election had not happened. Going forward, I hope there will be a serious effort to change the senate rule which means that 59 are not enough to pass major legislation, but those are the rules by which the health care bill was considered, and it would be wrong to change them in the middle of this process."
So Frank was saying that the House shouldn't accept the Senate version of healthcare reform, that we should start over with Republican input (because that worked so well the last time), and that we ought to do something about the abuse of the filibuster.
On that last argument, Frank is right. The use of the filibuster by the Republican minority has been unprecedented. Changing the rules wouldn't be. Originally, it took two-thirds majority to invoke cloture, but this was changed to the current three-fifths in 1975. There is nothing barring changing the rules again and the change would only require a simple majority.
Luckily, Frank came out with a much better thought out response last night. Speaking with Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler, Frank said he'd reconsidered his stance and he'd be open to accepting the Senate version, if measures within it would be revisited through separate legislation -- which seems to be the concensus plan on that tactic anyway. If the House accepts the Senate version as is, then the filibuster is a moot point -- the legislation wouldn't go back to that chamber.
But Frank's reaction is far too typical of people on the left. The loss of the "filibuster-proof" majority isn't the end of the freakin' world. Stephen Colbert nailed it when he said that Republicans now control a "41-seat super-minority" -- i.e., the Republicans are still getting their asses kicked and they're not even close to controlling the Senate. No party has held this large a minority since the 1970s -- unless you count the majority Democrats held a few days ago. Acting like Republicans have a majority in the Senate is insane, stupid, defeatist, and wildly unrealistic.
How long will the Democrat's Senate majority last? Well, all indicators say that -- after the 2010 elections -- two years at least. The current "all the Democrats are gonna die!" media talk is BS. No one seriously believes that Republicans will take either chamber and people who say otherwise are catapulting the propaganda.
"I do not think [Republicans] will regain either chamber," [former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Tuesday], in an event sponsored by The Progressive Book Club and moderated by the Huffington Post. "More than that I don't think they deserve to. They would return us to policies that soundly didn't work... That being said, we've won almost all there is to win in the House. Luckily we have some open seat opportunities. So we have got a lot of tough turf we are going to defend and a lot of people who won races in close to ideal circumstances. So they are going to have to run really good campaigns."
"We have a lot more ground to defend in the House and the Senate and the governor's races than the Republicans but no, I think we are going to maintain control of both of those chambers, I firmly believe," he added. "And we are going to have to work very hard to do it."
And, before you fault me for citing an obviously partisan argument, allow me to point out that Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele agrees. Democrats will lose seats, yes, but not control. Still, expect everyone to wake up one Novemember morning to news of the "electoral disaster" that leaves Democrats in control of both houses of congress.
But the truth is much simpler and much more obvious than everyone's put it; Democrats are going to have to deal with legislation in the same way that most majorities have throughout American history. A 60 seat majority is a rare occurrence and, in our current situation, pretty much a conceptual thing anyway.
So, for Democrats, I have one bit of advice; stop freaking out and get back to work.
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