President Obama delivered remarks today supporting Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to deploy the “nuclear option” ending minority filibusters of some judicial nominees. The Democrats tried to limit the effect of their action, stating that it only applies to nominees below the Supreme Court level.
But the damage done will go far beyond judicial nominees. Bipartisanship in the Senate is dead. Harry Reid and Barack Obama had already done grave damage to it by passing Obamacare. Today they finished it off.
Democrats currently hold a 53 seat majority, plus 2 Independents who tend to side with the Democrats. A loss of just six seats will hand the Republicans the majority in the Senate. After today, that majority means far more and will be far more consequential.
In the 2014 midterm elections, Democrats will be defending more vulnerable seats than Republicans will be. Several Democrats currently holding seats in GOP states were already vulnerable. They include:
Mark Begich, Alaska
Mark Pryor, Arkansas
Mark Udall, Colorado
Open Seat, Iowa (Harkin retired)
Mary Landrieu, Louisiana
Open Seat, Michigan (Levin retired)
Mac Baucus, Montana
Jean Shaheen*, New Hampshire
Kay Hagan, North Carolina
Tim Johnson, South Dakota
Joe Manchin, West Virginia
That’s 11 races, 12 if you count Al Franken in Minnesota, who won his seat very narrowly in what may have been a stolen election. Minnesota has become a competitive state for Republicans in recent years.
The trends in Alaska, Arkansas, Lousiana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia have tended to favor Republicans in the Obama years. Manchin essentially ran as an anti-Obama Democrat to win his seat, only to turn around and support a controversial gun control measure that ultimately failed. Colorado has swung blue but this year Republicans knocked off a handful of Democratic state senators thanks to another gun control measure.
Reid and Obama are claiming victory today, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory. They will get 11 months to push their extreme judicial nominees into the courts without any input from Republicans. But this is more about politics than nominations. The move comes at a time when Obama needs some headline other than “Obamacare fails again.” He needed some way to fire up his base and give the media something else to talk about. He has accomplished that, for a day or two, and done away with rules that date back to the creation of the Senate along with it.
In 2014 Democrats will be running against a wave of public rejection of Obamacare, which has never been popular. A majority want it either overhauled or repealed. Thanks to today’s “nuclear” strike, Republicans can run all of the above races as “the 51st vote” to repeal Obamacare in the Senate. Landrieu is doubly vulnerable now, having voted for Obamacare and now having voted to support the nuclear option. Her likely opponent, Dr. Bill Cassidy, can run a two-pronged campaign against her as a tool of Obama, who is not popular in Louisiana, and a fool for Obamacare. She and Pryor, who voted against the nuclear option today, may be as good as gone. Udall, Begich and Hagan aren’t far behind them.
*I originally had NH as an open seat. My mistake.