Whaddya Know, A Functional Congress
For all the heartburn Harry Reid and company gave me about Roland Burris, the stakes were fairly low. A loss meant that Burris gets seated, which I believe is happening today. In 2010 it is unlikely, if he runs, that Burris will take the nomination, IMO. And two-plus years is a long time to play the Blagojevich card, so the electoral damage nationally will be minimal.
On more substantive matters, Reid is actually off to a decent start. First he defied one of the bigger nuisances from the 110th Congress, Tom Coburn, and got an omnibus land reform bill passed by moving the vote to Sunday. The expanded majorities enable gambits like this, and the measure drew 12 Republican votes as well. Then, in setting up committee assignments for the next Congress, despite not having Al Franken or Burris in the chamber, Reid managed to earn majorities reflecting a 59-41 split, as if they were both seated, which they will be soon enough.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have reached a tentative agreement that would give Democrats a three-seat advantage on most committees during the 111th Congress [...]
Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, head of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, said Democrats negotiated a larger, four-seat advantage on the Appropriations and Armed Services committees. By statute, Democrats will have only a one-seat edge on the Intelligence Committee and a two-seat advantage on the Joint Economic Committee. On all other committees — except the Ethics panel, which always includes three members of each party — there will be three more Democrats than Republicans, Stabenow said.
Reid did this by simply waiting the Republicans out. They could have filibustered the rules package and demanded a lower majority, but then the seats would have reverted back to what they were in the 110th, minus all the Republicans who lost. Reid recognized this was a worse deal for Republicans and let them twist until they gave in.
Another key test will be when the Lily Ledbetter Equal Pay Act and SCHIP come up for vote in the Senate. If they can skate through without a filibuster, we may just have something with this Senate.