Monday, March 22, 2010

Questions 4: Changes in Congress?

Jefferson Smith asks:
I'm also wondering what you think the effects of this recent struggle will be, institutionally, on the Congress and how it operates. What lessons will congressional leaders draw from it that might affect how they approach their jobs in the future? And will D and R leaders (or the leaders of the two Houses) draw similar or different conclusions from it?
Great question.

Obviously, any answer I give is speculative at best.  I don't see any reason for this to lead to any changes on the House side.  Democrats there are happy with the way things worked, Republicans have no power to affect change now, and I don't see any reason to believe this will change what they do whenever they next have a majority.  I certainly don't see Republicans opposing self-executing rules, or reconciliation, or anything like that.

The big innovation, I guess, was the business of passing a bill in one House of Congress, forcing the other House to pass that bill as-is, and then passing a second bill to amend the first bill.  It seems to me that all of that was driven by special circumstances, and so I don't think it's likely we'll see it again.  It highlighted, to some extent, the fact that conference is broken, but for better or worse that's been true for a while now, and everyone seems to be okay with ping-pong along with informal majority-only conferences as the current de facto means of interchamber agreement.

As for the's my latest thoughts on what's likely to happen.  Generally, I do think that the current situation isn't long-term stable.  If the Democrats do fairly well in the 2010 elections, I think there's a good chance that they'll try, and possibly succeed, in modifying the filibuster.  On the other hand, if the Republicans do well, then odds are against reform in 2011.

It will be interesting to find out more about White House - Congressional cooperation, and whether there were significant differences between how the Obama WH does things and how the W. Bush and Clinton administration did things, but I don't think we know enough yet to speculate at all about what sorts of things might change in the future.


  1. I imagine that the everywhere and always obstruct strategy looks less attractive to Republicans now that it has failed on such an important bill.

    The Republicans may now have more trouble maintaining discipline, especially in the Senate.

    This loss is also a blow to the myth of Republican invincibility. They did EVERYTHING to stop it, yet the Democrats managed to push it through even though they only held 60 seats for a matter of months. This will lead to lower confidence, and people who are not confidence they can win outright more susceptible to deals which at least avoid utter failure.

    Similarly the Democrats will be emboldened. This might give them the confidence to reform the filibuster at the start of the next session (providing they keep their majority).

  2. >This loss is also a blow to the myth of Republican invincibility.

    So was Obama's election in the first place, of course. I remember paranoid websites and articles predicting that Republicans would surely rig the votes so that McCain would win narrowly. Or that there'd be a massive Bradley Effect. (When's the last time anyone used that term, since 2008?) Or that the GOP would somehow do to Obama what they did to Kerry and Dukakis, successfully tarring him with some smear that resonates with just enough voters to bring him down.

    It was amazing how many liberals simply could not believe Obama would win, despite all the evidence suggesting he would. We'd been burnt too many times before to feel any assurance that we'd succeed this time. And I think this lack of confidence haunts the Democratic Party to this day. It's partly why we were placed in such turmoil after Brown's election.


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