I’m pretty depressed about the political situation in the country. I guess the most dispiriting thing is that Obama can win reelection in a landslide, we can win back control of the House, and we can retain control of the Senate and even pick up a couple of seats, and all of that will not be enough to break the Republicans’ ability to stonewall. Blame the filibuster.
But there are some things that might change for the better in Washington. Control of the House and all its committees is obviously something worth fighting very hard for. But things could get better in the Senate, too. Let me highlight a few things.
The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Kent Conrad, is retiring. We’ll probably lose his seat to the Republicans. But Sen. Patty Murray is in line to take over the chair if the Dems hold onto control of the Senate. I think we all can agree that Murray would be a vast improvement over Conrad in that role.
Most of you probably know that Joe Lieberman chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee. What you might not know is that the Homeland Security Committee has a dual role as the committee on government oversight. If the Dems retain control of the Senate, Tom Carper of Delaware will probably take over Lieberman’s chair. Carper is, like Lieberman, a former chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council. He’s a fairly shitty senator. But, unlike Lieberman, he’ll defend the administration from unfair attacks. Also, Lieberman’s likely replacement is Rep. Chris Murphy, and he’ll be a major upgrade over Holy Joe.
Sen. Dan Akaka of Hawaii is retiring. He is the chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee. Otherwise, he’s not much noticed in Washington. Sen. Maria Cantwell will probably take his gavel on the Indian Affairs Committee. Rep, Mazie Hirono, a true progressive, will probably take his seat in the Senate. She’ll be an upgrade. She’ll also be the first Buddhist to serve in the Upper Chamber.
There is a good chance that Elizabeth Warren will replace Scott Brown as one of the two senators from Massachusetts. That would be a massive improvement.
If Tammy Baldwin is successful in replacing the retiring Herb Kohl, that would be a major injection of progressivism into the Senate.
In New Mexico, its possible that Martin Heinrich will take Jeff Bingaman’s place in the Senate and provide a little spark. More importantly, Sen. Ron Wyden is poised to take over Bingman’s gavel on the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.
It can’t be bad that Arizona’s Jon Kyl is retiring even if we don’t yet have a strong candidate to compete for the seat.
Tim Kaine would be a modest improvement over Jim Webb (on most issues) in Virginia.
And Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska will probably lose, meaning we won’t have to suffer his betrayals anymore.
There could be interesting primary challenges to Olympia Snowe, Orrin Hatch, and Dick Lugar, but they all seem likely to survive. Maybe the Texas replacement for retiring Kay Bailey Hutchison could be a Democrat. But, I doubt it.
Rep. Shelley Berkley could unseat Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada. She’d be a very modest improvement.
If things go well and Obama is reelected, we should see a better Congress. But it’s all relative. It won’t be good enough to solve our problems.