Larry Summers withdrawing his name from consideration for Federal Reserve Chair because of opposition from Democrats is the rare reminder that liberals in the Senate have a significant amount of leverage, if they ever choose to use it.

If we had a functioning Senate a handful of liberal senators could easily be ignored. The President could instead move his proposal slightly more to the right to reach out to Senate Republicans to make up for any votes he lost on his left flank. With the current makeup of the Republican party this option is no longer viable.

There is now a large segment of Senate Republicans who simply refuse to support Obama on almost anything. Whether because they are posturing for 2016, are ideologically committed, fear a primary, or simply dislike Obama a significant number of Senate Republican almost reflexively oppose anything Obama backs.

Combined with the ridiculous 60 vote requirement to end debate the result is Obama has very little room to maneuver. He can’t afford to lose even a modest-size block of liberals because there simply aren’t enough Republicans even willing to discuss making any kind of deal.

This means that if a small group of Senate liberals stuck together they could effectively have veto power over almost anything that matters in the Senate. Stopping Larry Summers has been one of the few times they have publicly used their leverage.

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