Republicans will be jumping for joy if they capture the Senate in November – but a small group of moderate Democrats could be the real winners in the end.
A GOP victory in the midterms would leave the upper chamber so closely divided that Republicans would have to call on conservative Democrats like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin to get any legislation passed, according to Politico.
The voting patterns would likely be a mirror image of the last four years of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s tenure when the Nevada Democrat has been forced to call on moderate Republicans to help the passage of certain bills.
The GOP needs just six seats in the midterms to take over the Senate, which currently has a 55-45 majority for the Democrats, including two independents who caucus with the left.
The GOP is expected to win by a slim majority of 51-49, or 52-48 at the most.
Thus, a Republican Senate would have to rely on swing Democrats to surpass the 60-vote needed to break filibusters. And that’s bad news for hard-line conservatives hoping to make the country take an extreme turn to the right.
On the other hand, the GOP would be able to block or delay President Barack Obama’s nominees for his Cabinet and for judicial positions, Politico reports.
"It’s very hard to get 60 votes if you don’t compromise," said Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a centrist Democrat. "And so this notion that they’re going to be able to exact this right-wing agenda? That’s fantasyland."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will become majority leader if the GOP takes over the Senate and he keeps his Kentucky seat in a close election.
But the irony is that one of his first calls of business could be to a Democrat, Manchin, as McConnell would be caught in the middle of potential clashes between the demands of tea party conservatives and centrist Republicans.
"I am who I am, I don’t fit anywhere," said Manchin said, who’s seen as too conservative for some Democrats and too liberal for many Republicans. But he could play a key role for McConnell in what could end up being a purple Senate, Politico says.
Along with Manchin and McCaskill, the moderate core of Democrats includes Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
According to Politico, there have been whispers in the halls of Congress about coercing Manchin and Angus King, a Maine independent, into switching political teams altogether. But they have both quickly stomped on the rumors.
"How would you switch parties?" said Manchin, who supports Obamacare. "Never thought about that, no. The bottom line is you’d have to change your whole philosophical beliefs."
And while insisting that he’s not a Democrat in independent’s clothing," King said, "What I hope is that the Republicans will see me as somebody that will listen and try to be an honest broker."
McConnell could have another potential ally in Heitkamp, who says she is willing to work with certain Republicans while pushing through bipartisan legislation next year, no matter who has control of the Senate.
"It’s not always in your best interest to take on leadership," Heitkamp said. "It’s about building a group of people who have a shared common experience who then can support each other. f you’re out there alone, not communicating with people who want to get things done, who are doing what you’re doing, it can get really lonely."
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