Wednesday, December 3, 2008


In the end, the much-anticipated vote was not at all close. Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia, has been reelected. Near-complete returns reported by the secretary of state show that he won 57.4% of the vote, to 42.6% for his Democratic challenger Jim Martin. In a vestige of the bad old days in the South, Georgia still requires a candidate to get over 50% of the vote, in order to win an election, with a runoff, if necessary. Yesterday's vote was such a runoff.

The parties' current standing in the new Senate:

Democrats and Independents: 58
Republicans: 41
Undecided: 1

Do the math. With the Republican total now at 41, the Democrats cannot reach their goal of 60 seats.

I still hold the opinion I've expressed previously in this blog, that there's not a huge difference between a 60-member Democratic Senate caucus, and one with 59 members. Yes, of course, 60 senators can end a filibuster. But congressional votes rarely fall strictly according to party lines. With 58 or 59 Democrats, there might still be cases where they can persuade some moderate Republicans to support a cloture resolution.

On the other hand, every additional Republican in the Senate does make it more difficult for Barack Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership to enact their legislative agenda, especially on issues that are sacred to the Democratic base, such as restrictions on secret balloting in labor union elections.

The Georgia result might cause both parties to put less stress on the recount of the Senate election in Minnesota. Perhaps whichever side loses, once Minnesota's state-level process is done, will have less incentive to appeal that decision to the Senate.

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