60 votes in the Senate is the magic number for the GOP to get anything accomplished, seeing as how they have no desire to actually lead and get things done otherwise.
For Republicans to get legislation through the House of Representatives, past Democratic objections in the Senate and to the desk of President Barack Obama, they need bodies, I’m afraid…
Republicans will have at most 54 seats in the new Senate next January. So they’d need to gain at least six Democrats on anything controversial, to break a legislation-blocking filibuster by the rest of the Democrats.
And they might do it. From an oil pipeline to a medical tax, there are some areas where the Senate could marshal 60 or more votes. The challenge will be building a new coalition on each issue.
If Republicans move to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s medical-device tax, for example, they might lure liberal Democrats such as Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren, who voted for the repeal in a symbolic vote last year.
On the Keystone pipeline, they’d likely lose those Democrats but might look to others, based on past votes.
Here’s how it could happen.
Keystone XL pipeline
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who’ll be the majority leader when the Republicans take over, has vowed that the Senate will vote next year to push the 1,700-mile pipeline, which would send oil from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Senate Democratic leaders blocked consideration of the pipeline for two years, while Obama postponed his approval.
The pipeline picks up at least one vote with the election of supporter Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who’ll replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, who opposed it. And chances are that Democrats who felt pressure to oppose, or at least delay, a vote on the pipeline won’t feel the same heat.
“The reality is you gain that vote in Iowa and you solidify all those folks who could have been pressured out of voting for it,” said Frank Maisano, an energy expert at a Washington law firm that represents a variety of industry clients.
Earlier this year, Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., introduced a bill that would approve the pipeline. Landrieu, who’s now the chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, may not return in January: She faces a runoff Dec. 6 against Republican Bill Cassidy.
But the measure was sponsored by all Senate Republicans, as well as six Democrats who are coming back next year: Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
Senate Democrats will block Republican efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act, but enough of them might go along with some changes in the health care law that would make it to Obama.
McConnell might move to repeal a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices that’s in the law, and he may have willing partners in several Democratic senators, including Warren, Klobuchar and Franken, who represent major medical-device-making states.
Last year, 79 senators – including 33 Democrats and independent Angus King of Maine – supported a nonbinding measure to repeal the tax.
“Yes, they would like to get rid of it, but I don’t know how Congress would pay for a repeal of the tax,” said Timothy Jost, a law professor at Virginia’s Washington and Lee University who specializes in health care issues.
Getting to 60 on spending bills “is one of those achievable areas,” said Maya MacGuineas, the president of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
Of course I don’t need to remind you that over the past four years, the GOP hasn’t used the Power of the Purse and is running away from conservative ideals every chance they get in the Senate. Or do I?
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