Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Dems Have Won

Now that the last Senate race has been decided I can allow a satisfied smile across my face. Ahhhh...

It really was a beautiful result to the US midterms. It was pretty clear in the run-up that the Democrats would take the House but even the liberals doubted that they could take the Senate as well. This leaves the Repubicans with pretty much no legislative power, although of course given how much power has been given to the executive I'm sure Bush will still be able to influence the course of the country until 2008.

Still, the things new House speaker Pelosi is talking about are music to the ears. A decent level minimum wage! Stronger corruption rules!

However there are certain elements which rather dampen this marvelous event:

1. While the House is won by some way, the Senate is technically 49-49-2, the 2 being Independents. The majority status is based on Lieberman's promise to vote with the Democrats. He was going to be the Democratic contender in Conneticut but was beaten in the Primary by Lamont. Rather than bowing out gracefully he stood as an Independent against Lamont and won. His allegiances are slippery, appealing as he does to both 'moderate' Democrats and some Republicans, who he often courts. He's not the person you would wish to have the deciding vote. Happily the other Independent is a Socialist, who is hardly going to vote with the Republicans on most issues. So while Lieberman could prevent legislation, he cannot give the Republicans enough power to pass legislation without some Democrat or Socialist support.

2. Bush retains a veto over any legislation, subject to a two-thirds majority which the Dems don't have in either chamber. In theory he could prevent any legislation. Luckily, this is not going to happen. Use of the veto overrides the legislature which creates a risk of losing popular support, especially if used frequently in an obstructionist way. So far Bush has used the veto incredibly rarely - only once, to prevent a Bill giving public funding to stem cell research from passing. Of course that was with a Republican legislature, but it is unlikely that he will suddenly leap to throwing vetoes around. Bush has promised not to block the minimum wage or similar measures, suggesting he will limit himself to blocking tax increases and socially liberal issues. The first is damaging as it will mean any spending increase will need to be matched by a cutback. The second is disappointing as while stem cells are a given, it could also destroy hopes of new gay rights legislation.

Nevertheless despite these issues, this could be the beginning of an exciting new era of progress in the self-titled land of the free. The message for Democrats from all who are sympathetic should be "Well done, now don't screw it up!".

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