Power players

"Power players" Continued...

Issue: "Tiananmen massacre," June 6, 2009

This is the danger for Democrats if they overreach with too ambitious an agenda. And with the economy, health care, education, and energy all on the table for this year, few would argue that the current agenda is anything but ambitious.

"It is just the nature of power," said Marjorie Hershey, professor of political science at Indiana University. "When people have a lot of it they try to push through more than the American public can swallow in one bite. They start envisioning a mandate, and in American politics we simply don't have a mandate."

Back in Congress, Senate Republicans recently reveled in the defeat of a mortgage plan that would have spurred homeowners to declare bankruptcy while raising interest rates on other borrowers. Twelve Democrats joined Republicans in killing the measure, including five from the moderate Democrats' working group.

But bigger battles remain in health care and education, and the GOP will be handcuffed in those fights. Without the filibuster, they will not be able to say as the fictional Sen. Smith did that "wild horses aren't going to drag me off this floor till those people've heard everything I've got to say."

But this aggressive bypassing of Senate rules has not escaped one Democrat. Byrd, the longest-serving member in Senate history, sees a future where Democrats again will be in the minority, begging to be protected from "the bear trap" of reconciliation: "The worm will turn."

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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