Rob has a post below speculating about the newly appointed senator from Hawaii, who I know little about. He goes on to speculate about a more liberal Senate, blaming Obama for it and speculating that the Senate will be less likely to compromise and will pursue a more progressive course. Some of that is true, though I don’t know how much Obama had to do with it, unless you want to credit his coattails in places like Massachusetts and Connecticut.
But the changes in the Senate are significant and bear watching. Consider the changes:
- Elizabeth Warren replaces Scott Brown
- Chris Murphy replaces Joe Lieberman
- Joe Donelly (D) replaces Dick Lugar (R)
- Angus King replaces Olympia Snowe
- Heidi Heitcamp replaces Kent Conrad
- Tim Kaine replaces Jim Webb
- Tammy Baldwin replaces Herb Kohl
Since Inouye was already pretty liberal, I can’t say whether Brian Schatz is much of an ideological change, but he’ll be a new face.
What will this mean? For starters, the new members will pull Harry Reid to the left. It makes filibuster reform more likely, since Warren and other newcomers (with no experience in the minority) are pushing to clip Mitch McConnell’s wings. Reid is already moderating his position on gun control and may move left on other issues. He put Warren on the Banking Committee despite strong opposition from Wall Street, which also signals a shift.
I haven’t analyzed yet the specifics of changes in leadership, but the departure of conservative committee chairmen like Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Conrad of North Dakota may also have an impact.
I’m hoping it also means the Senate Democrats will produce a budget for a change.