A lot of progressives were alarmed when they heard Evan Bayh was launching a bloc of self-described moderate Democratic Senators as it seemed the only purpose of such a group could be to water down the president’s agenda. But the administration and the congressional leadership seemed pretty sanguine. And now here comes a Washington Post op-ed by Bayh, Blanche Lincoln, and Tom Carper saying that’s not the right way to look at it. They say they “feel compelled to set the record straight” and “believe that President Obama is correct when he says that we cannot afford to wait any longer to fix health care and transition to a clean-energy economy.”
The issue, as they see it, is that “on nearly all important votes, a supermajority of 60 senators will be needed to pass legislation” which means that “without Democratic moderates working to find common ground with reasonable Republicans, the president’s agenda could well be filibustered into oblivion.” I’ll stop here to note that there actually is an alternative here, albeit one that nobody in the Senate seems inclined to pursue, namely filibuster reform. Previous eras of substantive progressive reform have usually gone hand-in-hand with procedural reform. But that’s not on the table, so their alternative is working to find common ground with reasonable Republicans. It’s a good idea, I think. They themselves write, however, that when it comes to solving America’s big problems “Unfortunately, the Republican leadership has basically decided to stay on the sidelines to let the Democrats carry the load of reform alone.”
Who are the Republicans they’re going to work with? Arlen Specter who’s running scared of a primary challenge from the right and flip-flopping as fast as he can to base-friendly territory?