Election 2008

congress, congressional profile, election 2008
Susan Walsh/AP
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Democrats Near Filibuster-Proof Senate

November 05, 2008 01:57 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
Democrats recorded considerable gains in Election 2008. With the 111th Congress in place, what will its members work on first?

Votes Still Left to Be Counted (and Recounted)

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Democrats are still waiting to learn whether they will gain enough seats in the 2008 election to have a filibuster-proof Senate. But even if they don’t hold 60 seats, they “were within reach of a working coalition on major policy issues,” according to The New York Times.

Republican losses like those by Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina and John E. Sununu in New Hampshire helped the Democratic cause.

But a few more cliffhangers remain undecided. In Minnesota, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken will have to wait awhile longer for the final results of their race. Early Wednesday, Coleman was ahead by less than 1,000 votes out of the 2.9 million-odd ballots cast, a margin small enough to require a recount under Minnesota law, according to the Associated Press.

Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said the recount could last into December. “No matter how fast people would like it, the emphasis is on accuracy,” he said.

Meanwhile, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens holds a slim lead over Anchorage mayor Mark Begich, with 99 percent of Alaska’s precincts reporting. Another 40,000 absentee ballots remain to be counted, though. If he wins, Stevens will be the first senator found guilty of criminal charges to be re-elected to office, the Boston Herald wrote.

Analysis: Hoping for a filibuster-proof Senate

In the days before the election, Republicans, Democrats and political analysts were eyeing the possibility of a “filibuster-proof Senate,” according to The Austin American-Statesman.

With 23 of 49 seats up for re-election, Senate Republicans had more work to do this year than the Democrats, who only had 12 of their 51 seats to protect. Both parties were interested in maintaining their influence “because the Senate can make or break a presidency,” the paper reported.

Opinion: Things to fix

The possibility that one party could dominate both houses of Congress and the White House was worrisome to some election candidates. Sen. Gordon Smith, the Republican incumbent in Oregon, warned, “One-party dominance, a blank check, no checks and balances, could be a very unfortunate thing for our country,” according to Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian.

The new Congress has a “poor image” to repair, writes Robert Schroeder of MarketWatch. Some of the first issues lawmakers will be expected to address are the economy and the Iraq War, along with corruption scandals such as the case involving Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

“What they need is the appearance of dealing with and finding solutions to the nation’s toughest problems,” Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report told MarketWatch.
 
The House of Representatives will also have “more maneuvering room” with Democrats picking up additional seats there, the International Herald Tribune reported. Analysts had predicted that a gain of 30 seats was possible, but it appeared the party would fall short of that number the day after the election.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the Democrats’ gains could “increase bipartisanship, civility and fiscal responsibility,” she was quoted as saying by the International Herald Tribune.
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