Boy, there’s no overlooking the fact that this is an election year. All you have to do is check the behavior of our most visible elected leaders, starting with the President and work your way down: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi. En masse, they have pushed aside meaningful and much needed congressional debate over the military action in Iraq and Syria in favor of sparing members of their respective parties from having to cast votes that might damage their chances at getting re-elected. One could argue that this is simply a matter of setting priorities, whether it be country first and then party or the other way around. Obviously, all of the aforementioned have opted for the latter.
Speaker Boehner is in line for an extra measure of scorn because he has added rank hypocrisy to the mix. Remember, he publicly announced that he was suing Obama for exceeding his presidential authority by unilaterally delaying the implementation of the employer mandate, an important part of the Affordable Healthcare Act. Yet, when it comes to the president taking unilateral action to edge us into a war with radical Islam in the form of ISIS, the Speaker goes MIA. Indeed, he has announced that any debate over that action can wait until after the first of the new year which is to say, until well after the coming election.
Now there is no question that the coming election is an important one. That’s because control of the US Senate hangs in the balance. If the Republicans gain a 51 vote majority, they will use that advantage in concert with the GOP-controlled House (1) to engage in all sorts of budget adjustments that will undercut Obamacare as well as other parts of the social safety net (think Social Security).
Right now, statisticians like the renown Nate Silver have rated as a “toss-up” what will happen in the Senate. The likelihood is that the Republicans will gain some seats. The question is “How many?” Will they get to their magic number of 51? If they “only” get to 50, that creates a situation that has only arisen once in your blogger’s memory; i.e. with 100 votes in the Senate, any 50/50 split gets resolved by a deciding vote cast by the Vice President. Additionally, on any piece of legislation that requires a 60-vote super majority, the GOP will not, no matter how skewed the election is in their favor, reach that requisite number. Nor will they have the votes to override any presidential vetoes. The upshot of all these “what if’s” is that we are probably in for another two years of legislative gridlock.
Meanwhile, the public can sit on their hands as they wait for an in-depth debate over the war on ISIS; what it will involve, where it will involve us and how long it will last? These are critical questions. Are they more important than who gets elected this November? That’s a matter of setting priorities. Yours?
1. The GOP will remain firmly in control of the House and probably add seats to their existing majority. This state of affairs will exist through several more election cycles as a result of the rampant gerrymandering of House districts orchestrated by Republican-controlled state legislatures. There is no better example of why state elections matter.