Friday, July 8, 2011

Dissent in the Democratic ranks?

Not much attention has been paid to the Senate during the debt ceiling negotiations. Most of it has been focused on Republicans in the House and Obama. But obviously both of them need at least 51 Senators to pass whatever compromise they settle on. They may even need 60 votes if someone decides to filibuster.

Given that there is probably going to be controversial stuff for both parties in this deal I think the Senate merits more attention. Especially when people like Bernie Sanders say things like this:

REPORTER: In your view, if this debt limit deal includes any changes in Social Security, are you convinced that that will not be able to pass the Senate?

SANDERS: Again, it’s hard for us to talk about 99 other people. But I think there really is a disconnect, and I think Sheldon made this point when he was speaking, between what the White House is doing and rest of the Senate. What I can say is that I have heard, including from people that you might not expect to hear it from, that if they bring from the Senate a piece of crap which really comes down heavy on working families, and the elderly, and the sick, and the children, and they expect me to matter of factly vote for it, they have another thing coming. So I think the White House is for a serious surpise if they think everybody in the Democratic caucus is going to willy nilly follow the President and vote for anything he brings forth.

I'm not sure whether this is spin or if him and other Senators are genuinely concerned about the deal that Obama is making. That's because I'm also not clear on how much communication the Senate and Obama have had. If they have met and know Obama's plan this is probably just spin designed to cover their ass for an unpopular vote or to publicly show opposition. If they haven't met with Obama and don't know what is going on then I hope they stick to what they are saying and don't vote for a crappy bill.

The scary thing to me and people who care about not screwing over those who would be hurt by regressive entitlement cuts is that Obama could just not care about Senators like Sanders (who is listed as an independent, but the link says a Dem joined him) and the more liberal Democrats. If he gets a deal with the House that cuts entitlements he could get enough Republicans on board with moderate Democrats to get it through the Senate. The problem would be if someone like Sanders lives up to this rhetoric and filibusters. If that happens I'm not sure where the 60 votes would come from, though I would guess enough Democrats would vote for it just to not make their president look bad.

The other thing that I don't like is that there aren't any Democratic Senators coming out as forcefully as Sanders against a potential (and likely) bad deal. Perhaps I just haven't been looking. And maybe they are just biding their time. But given all the talk about entitlement cuts you would think at least one liberal Democrat would have expressed concern, if not in public than in private to the White House. I know Nancy Pelosi has but she doesn't have much bearing on the Senate and the Democrats aren't needed in the House anyway. If there isn't dissent in the Democratic ranks of the Senate then there probably should be come time to vote on a ridiculous debt ceiling bill.

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