The New Senate

The New Senate


The NY Times is reporting that Hillary Clinton will accept the job of Secretary of State. I don’t have much to say, except that I’ve always thought it was a very strange pick, considering two of the most substantive disagreements between the two candidates during the primary were on the war in Iraq and direct negotiations with hostile foreign nations. I think Obama was right about both, Clinton was wrong about both and so choosing her to implement his foreign policy seems bizarre. Spencer Ackerman has a more fleshed out, reported piece about these concerns here.

That said, I think one angle that hasn’t gotten much attention is the massive change that’s coming to the US Senate. As far as I can tell there are going to be at least thirteen new Senators come January. (As of know, seven newly elected Democrats, three new Republicans and three replacements for Obama, Biden and Clinton, respectively.) It’s possible there will be more, if Franken wins the recount and Martin the run-off, or if Obama appoints any other senators to cabinet posts.

The Senate is as sclerotic an institution as exists in American life, so a 13% turnover in a single year amounts to a complete upheaval. Then there’s the added fact that two of, if not the two most powerful and respected Democratic legislators, Robert Byrd and Teddy Kennedy are both in precarious physical shape. I’m not quite sure yet what this means for Obama’s legislative agenda, though my gut sense is that it will help him, particularly with fewer entrenched senatorial barons exacting tolls. Either way, it’s going to be very interesting to watch.

UPDATE: Mask points out in comments that the arrangement of my last graf is inartful, that is, seems like I’m pulling for Byrd or Kennedy to fall ill. He’s write that it’s poorly worded, so let me just stress that I don’t mean that at all. In fact, I think in the specific case of Kennedy, that his liberalism and independence will serve as a good progressive check on Obama, and Byrd’s raw institutional knowledge and command of senate procedure is irreplaceable, even if I’m not particularly huge fan of some of his politics.

Ad Policy