Obama Reelected: Now What?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Now that Barack Obama has been given a second chance by the electorate, the question becomes what happens next. The “fiscal cliff” still looms, although it isn’t really a “cliff,” more like a slope. The government remains divided with the House still in the hands of fiscal conservatives and the Senate will remain crippled by a recalcitrant minority determined to block any reasonable effort at “compromise” by the Democratic majority and the White House to end the Bush/Obama tax cuts for the wealthiest.

The US markets reacted to the election this afternoon by plummeting to below 13,000 for the first time since August.

Stocks were sharply lower in afternoon trading in New York, with both the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the Dow Jones industrial average down 2.3 percent, as European shares sank and Asian stocks were mixed. While many executives on Wall Street and in other industries favored Mitt Romney, many had already factored in the likelihood of Mr. Obama winning a second term.

Still, continued divided government in Washington and little prospect for compromise unnerved traders. [..]

Companies in some sectors, like hospitals and technology, could see a short-term pop, said Tobias Levkovich, chief United States equity strategist with Citi. Other areas, like financial services as well as coal and mining, could be hurt as investors contemplate a tougher regulatory environment.

Fears of the fiscal impasse and the continued euro crisis were just some of the reasons but more than anything it was the failure of the GOP to take back the White House and Senate to secure the fraudsters fiefdom. It was fairly obvious from some headlines that Elizabeth Warren’s election to the Senate has Wall St. very upset: Wall Street Scourge Warren Entering U.S. Senate.

Democrat Elizabeth Warren, whose attacks on Wall Street propelled her ascent, will become the first female U.S. senator from Massachusetts, entering a divided chamber that had spurned her appointment as the nation’s consumer-protection chief.

I doubt they will be able to get rid of her as easily as they got rid of the “Sheriff of Wall St.,” former New York governor Elliot Spitzer.

I highly doubt that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and extremist Tea Party members are going to be any more cooperative with the White House and the Democratic majority in the Senate. In fact, it was already looking like they were digging immediately after the President’s victory speech with Mr. Boehner stating that the GOP’s retaining of the House majority meant that there was no mandate to raise taxes. Sen. McConnell echoed those sentiments telling the President that he shouldn’t consider the Democratic Senate wins as too much of a mandate.

To break at least the Senate deadlock, it is well past time to do something about the filibuster, which the Republicans have used in record numbers, over the last four years to block any progress for economic recovery the Democratic wins as too much of a mandate. During the campaign, Gov. Mitt Romney tried to revise history saying that Pres. Obama got everything he wanted and still failed

The argument obscures the important policy-making role Republicans had in the first two years of Obama’s presidency, when they used a record number of filibusters in the Senate to weaken – and in some cases thwart – large pieces of his agenda.

The $787 billion stimulus package in 2009, which was ultimately too small to fully reverse the economic downturn, had to be scaled down because a GOP filibuster required Democrats to win over 60 Senate votes for final passage. Repeated filibusters on health care reform ate up nearly a year of the Democrats’ legislative time, and Obama’s subsequent efforts to boost the economy were met with the same wall of Republican opposition – one that became insurmountable after the GOP’s congressional victories in 2010.

Progressives argue that the economy continues to struggle in part because Republicans have blocked Obama’s efforts, and advanced an agenda in 2011 and 2012 that effectively – if not intentionally – sabotaged the recovery.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who will likely remain majority leader, has vowed once again to address the problem of the filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pledged on Wednesday to change the rules of the Senate so that the minority party has fewer tools to obstruct legislative business.

In his first post-election press conference, the Nevada Democrat said he wouldn’t go so far as to eliminate the filibuster, which requires 60 votes for the chamber to enter and exit the amendment and debate process. But in remarks meant to preview a more combative approach during the next session, he warned Republicans that obstructionism as a tactic won’t be tolerated — or as technically feasible.

The problem is what Sen. Reid, who has stated that he supports filibuster, proposes does not go far enough:

“The first thing is the most important thing,” Reid said the interview. “Do away with motion to proceed. Just do away with it. I favor the filibuster. There’s a reason for the filibuster. I understand it. It’s to protect the rights of the minority. The Senate was set up to protect the rights of the minority … so that’s the no. 1 issue, and the rest of the stuff we can deal with if there’s a filibuster conducted. Those are the kind of things — if we get the motion to proceed out of the way, we can debate it, one, to cloture. That’s good. So that’s the no. 1 biggie.”

Even with Democrats set to control the Senate — indeed, even set to expand their current majority — the avenues for Reid to pursue rules reform aren’t entirely clear.

There has historically been some debate over whether the majority can change the Senate rules at the beginning of each term, or whether two-thirds support is needed, per the Senate rules. The question hinges on whether the Senate is a “continuing legislative body” or whether each new term marks a new Senate. Those who want to change the rules using a majority vote argue that past Senates cannot bind the hands of future legislative bodies.

Whatever the historical record, the basic fight comes down to numbers. No matter what the Senate chair rules, a majority can overrule the chair. However, that will likely be unnecessary, as Vice President Joe Biden is known to be a supporter of filibuster reform, and a believer that the constitution allows the majority to write new rules at the start of a term.

While some of the Republicans say they will reflect on their inability to achieve their goal, perhaps it’s time for the Democrats to do the same in the Senate and replace Harry Reid with someone who will stand up to Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and the Tea Party bullies.



    • TMC on November 8, 2012 at 19:33

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