This headline from “The New York Times,” Byrd’s Death Weakens Democrats’ Frail Majority, perfectly sums up what a broken, insane Bizzaro World the United States Senate has made of Washington, DC. (Note: Before this post was published, the “Times” changed the headline to Byrd’s Death Weakens Democrats’ Shifting Majority.) The headline appears ridiculous either way. Even without the late Robert Byrd, the Democratic caucus still has 17 more seats in the Senate than the Republicans. That is near the historic high for any party. Plus, the Democratic Governor of West Virginia, Joe Manchin, will likely appoint a Democratic replacement in short order.
The problem is that the headline is also 100 percent on the mark. The Democrats’ majority is very frail. Byrd’s death might imperil the financial reform bill because the bill can now likely win only 56 to 59 votes in the Senate. That’s an overwhelming majority, just not a super majority. For the same reason, Byrd’s passing will probably prevent the Senate from taking up the DISCLOSE Act since it could win only a large majority of votes. And the frail Democratic majority in the Senate struggled and failed to pass a basic unemployment-insurance extension and more Medicaid money for states.
The Democrats’ majority is not frail because it lacks numbers, which it has in abundance. It is frail because the Democratic caucus chooses to be pathetically weak by embracing self-imposed helplessness. It has allowed itself to be completely bent to the will of a minority party. There is nothing legally, constitutionally or physically stopping 50 Democrats plus Vice President Joe Biden from restricting or just eliminating the filibuster this afternoon. Yet Democrats have chosen to forfeit completely their Constitutional right as the majority party in Congress to craft legislation by giving that power to a handful of Republican Senators.
The Democratic majority is frail. But that’s not because its huge Senate majority slipped from 59 to 58. It is frail because it lacks the spirit, will and courage of its convictions.
If Democrats in the Senate can’t even convince one another to vote to restore their own power as the duly elected majority, how will they convince regular Americans to bother voting this November to keep them in a permanent state of self-imposed weakness power?