Democrats remain just short of the 60-vote majority they need in the U.S. Senate to stop a GOP filibuster. As a result, the most popular senators this session will be the moderate Republicans, from whom the support of only one or two could be decisive in a close vote, reports the LA Times.
Case in point: legislation to make it easier for unions to organize workers. If Democrats are going to push the so-called "card check" measure through the Senate, they may look, for instance, to Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a moderate who voted to bring the stalled bill to a vote last time out of the gate.
“There are only a few of us moderates – we could fit in a phone booth,” Specter said in a recent interview. “To make that 60th vote, it may be that we’ll be in big demand.”
Meanwhile, however, the Democrat’s go-to list of GOP moderates may be dwindling, according to the Times report.
“The power of moderates is declining in the country: They are fewer in number and the country has polarized,” said Thomas F. Schaller, a political scientist at the University of Maryland. “But in any vote where you are down to one to two votes there are always going to be people in the middle who have decisive power.”
The latest election results culled the ranks of moderate Republicans, leaving the congressional GOP more dominated than ever by hard-core conservatives like Sens. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla. – stalwarts who helped spearhead the early defeat of an Big Three auto bailout, the Times reported.
For sure, the ranks of the Republican moderates are thinning. Recent election losers include moderates Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Sen. Gordon H. Smith, R-Ore., who were defeated in 2008. Retirees this year featured moderates Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va., and Rep. James T. Walsh, R-N.Y.
In the Senate, a minority of 41 can filibuster to keep a bill from coming to a vote. Senate Democrats will most likely wind up with 58 or 59 members, depending on the disputed election in Minnesota.
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