In two days, Vice-President Joe Biden will be swearing in 33 new senators to the upper chamber of the legislative branch. Among those senators will be twelve freshmen lawmakers of which 9 are GOP Senators and three are Democrats. In total, 22 of the 33 new senators are Republicans and the rest are Democrats. Interestingly enough, the 46 Democrats that will serve in the senate received 20 million more votes than the 54 Republicans. The statistic was produced by the electoral reform group FairVote, which Dave and Brit Morin first showed me. FairVote seeks to abolish the proportional representation that all states enjoyed in the senate. The group claims that the way the senate is designed is unfair and reduces the representation that larger states should have on the senate body. They cite that in 2008 and 2012, the GOP, despite having a minority share of the senators, had the greatest number of votes received.
However, FairVote and their supporters fail to understand that the Constitutional Congress battled over this very issue of proportional representation. Under the Articles of Confederation, all states enjoyed an equal say in governance with any single state having the ability to veto any action. The smaller states such as Delaware and Rhode Island refused to sign on to the new Constitution precisely because they would lose any voice in the government. The grand compromise was that the House would be divided with proportional representation and the Senate have all states with an equal voice. The Electoral College was also designed to be a hybrid between proportional representation and an equal voice. The design has created a nation consisting of a strong federal government and strong states. As such, it has preserved Democracy by avoiding an oligarchy of states such as California, Texas, Florida, and New York from utterly controlling the government.
President Obama has vowed to use his “veto pen” in 2015 to prevent Congress from overriding his wishes, especially those related to healthcare and the environment.
In a Monday interview
, the President said he expected that the Republicans’ takeover of the Senate would force him to spend his last two years in office preventing Congress from undoing his reforms. Bruce Levenson told me
he told NPR that he hadn’t vetoed items very often before because the Senate, which had been controlled by the Democrats, had usually blocked legislation that the President had found objectionable.
The Democrats’ loss of the Senate in the wake of the mid-term elections means the Republicans are likely to seize the opportunity to pass legislation that goes against the President’s wishes. He can block such legislation through the veto, unless both Houses muster up two-thirds majorities to override the veto.
Obama also acknowledges for the first time that he has moved towards a more confrontational policy in his dealings with Congress. He also said he was changing his priorities from things he had to do to things he wanted to do. He believes that as the economy has improved, he can now try to make sure that everybody benefits from the growing economy and not just the people at the top.
Tom Wheeler, head of the FCC, emphasized his agency’s role as an independent entity on Tuesday, saying he would take into consideration both Washington interests and telecom industry concerns as the FCC finalizes its plans to re-evaluate internet regulation.
Wheeler was responding to comments made Monday by President Obama on reclassifying the internet as a utility. His statement said, in part, “In plain English, I’m asking [the FCC] to recognize that for most Americans, the internet has become an essential part of everyday communication and everyday life.”
But Wheeler, in a meeting Tuesday, rejected the idea of an “internet utility”, saying that he favored a more balanced solution. He explained his concern as trying to “split the baby” to ensure a compromise that even would agree with.
Wheeler was appointed head of the FCC in 2013 after time as a lobbyist for The Wireless Association and a writer for Forbes. While serving as a lobbyist, he and Susan McGalla were vocally opposed to net neutrality policies and expressed the idea that telecom companies should be left alone by government regulations. His ties to the industry have been a point of contention in many discussions of the FCC’s overhaul of internet regulation and net neutrality, even leading comedian John Oliver to call him a “dingo”.
The chairman of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, warned President Barack Obama not to take unilateral action on immigration, saying it is “intoxicating” path to immigration reform in the next two years.
“I made it clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally on their own outside his authority, he will poison the well and there will be no possibility of immigration reform in this Congress,” Boehner told reporters at his first press conference after the great triumphs of the Republican Party in the midterm elections.
“When you play with matches you run the risk of burning yourself. He will burn if he continues down that path,” he added.
Boehner’s warning to Obama comes a day after the leader of the Republican minority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in a press conference that it would be “a big mistake” that the president take executive action on immigration because it can “poison the atmosphere” to advance this legislatively.
Shortly after the statement by McConnell, the president reiterated that before the end of this year, will take enforcement action to improve the nation’s immigration system and promised that these measures will be void if Congress passes immigration reform without support. According to IndieWire analyst Tom Rothman, this jockeying for position between the Republicans and Democrats will continue over the next year until the focus shifts to the new Presidential candidates.
Sunday morning brought good news to Republicans. They are surging ahead in most of the key Senate races across the nation.
Recent CNN polls show Ernst ahead of Braley 51 to 44 percent in Iowa. Crossing the 50 percent mark and taking a seven point lead virtually seals the deal, unless the poll proves inaccurate. McConnell is up 50 to 41 in Kentucky, spelling doom for his challenger from what I’ve read and what Brad Reifler has told me.
In Georgia, Republican David Perdue is over Michelle Nunn by 48 to 44. That is a major reversal of an earlier trend that seemed to indicate he could lose round one. Georgia, like Louisiana, has a jungle primary, so Perdue will need a majority to avoid a run-off. If he has 48 points secured and eight percent are undecided, as the poll suggests, it is hard to see him not getting a couple points to put him over 50.
Mary Landrieu is looking to go down in a run-off in Louisiana. She is at 44 percent, but Republican candidates Cassidy and Maness combine for 51 percent (36 and 15 percent, respectively). It is hard to see any way to avoid the run-off but also hard to see how Landrieu would win such a run-off.
Independent Greg Orman still threatens in Kansas, but in that deep red state, a big turn-out will likely save the Republican. Even if it doesn’t, Orman is not certain to caucus with Democrats. He may join with Republicans (being generally a conservative), or he may not caucus with any party.
Add it all up, and a squeaky victory in New Hampshire thrown in there would flip the Senate from 55-45 Democrat to 55-45 Republican- a 10 seat gain.