We are one year away from when the 112th Congress will be sworn in, and that is why I'm beginning a countdown to full Congressional shutdown. When Democrats lose their 60-vote super-majority in the Senate, our entire Congress will effectively stop working altogether.
All indications point to this year being a good election for Republicans. They are projected to pick up several seats in the House, and, most importantly, they are projected to pick up several seats in the Senate. If Republicans win seats in both Houses, but not enough to gain a majority in either chamber, our Congress will effectively shut down.
If the Republican party wins, it will be by being the party of no and obstructing Democrats at every turn. They will have profited politically not because they sold the American people on their new ideas, but by simply making Democrats look like they are incapable of governing and handling problems. I see zero reason why the Republican party would throw out a successful playbook after it won them an election. To most Americans, it will look like Democrats fully control the federal government (which they would if they were willing to play true hardball), and yet are failing to get anything done.
Because of the Republicans’ incredible abuse of the filibuster, once Democrats lose their 60-vote super-majority the Senate will go from a terribly broken, barely functioning governing body to a completely broken nonfunctioning governing body. The process of legislating will effectively come to a complete stop. Any bill even slightly controversial, and even many non-controversial bills, will fail to pass the Senate. All the top-priority legislation of the Democratic base not passed inside the next year will never be passed. Even the actual management of our government will be crippled by the slow pace of approving Obama's nominees.
Republicans would not allow themselves to walk into this failure-to-govern, political suicide trap. This will be a disaster completely of the Democrats’ own making if they refuse to pay hardball. When Democrats tried to block the GOP’s top priorities when the Republicans fully controlled the federal government, GOP Senate majority leader Bill Frist was prepared to go to the mat. He used reconciliation in creative ways to get his tax cuts past a Democratic filibuster. When Democrats threatened to filibuster judicial nominees, First was prepared to use the nuclear option to end the filibuster until Democrats backed down at the last minute. The Republican party understands that parties are elected to govern not to be incredibly nice to the party the American people just kicked out of power.
The big problem is that even the most liberal Democrats in the Senate prefer being senators to being legislators. They like their complete lack of caucus discipline. They enjoy their terrible rules governing the Senate because they give each individual senator huge amounts of power. Unfortunately, they don't want to give up even some personal power by reforming these rulesl, even though the rules are destroying the Senate, ruining our government, and slowly crippling our nation. The Democrats in the Senate will only change when there is serious pressure from outside.
If progressives and the different constituent groups that make up the Democratic base want to see their top priorities passed into law, they need to act quickly. We have seen how this completely made-up 60-vote threshold has completely ruined health care reform, and the destruction done to progressive legislation by this made-up 60-vote requirement will only get dramatically worse in one year.
It does not matter if your goal is health care reform, gay rights, labor law, global warming, immigration reform, etc., they are all hindered by the same made up 60-vote threshold that the Democrats in the Senate refuse to acknowledge they have the power to eliminate. All progressive groups have one year before the next Congress is sworn in and the new rules are set. They have a one year window to push for Senate rule reform before the chamber effectively shuts down and takes with it all hope of progressive reform for years to come. A push to restore Constitutional majority rule to the Senate is the push for every single legislative goal of the Democratic base, but the clock is ticking.