In his latest column for National Journal, Ronald Brownstein makes the case that, with Republicans controlling 41 votes in the Senate, partisan culture and the looming threat of filibusters renders Congress almost useless when it comes to passing big legislative initiatives:
...Obama's larger difficulty is that he's pushing so much change at a time when filibuster threats are so common that it requires 60 Senate votes to pass almost everything -- and the minority party won't provide the president votes on almost anything. We are operating in what amounts to a parliamentary system without majority rule, a formula for futility.
There's little incentive, politically, for Republicans to work with the president or give him any votes at all: they will take Massachusetts as a sign that flat-out opposition to his policies (some would call it obstructionism) plays pretty well with the voting public.
Obama's playbook from here on out, Brownstein says, will likely
include lowered sights, more executive actions, attempts at
bipartisanship, and tying Republicans to corporate interests when they
The White House is likely to respond to the roar of discontent from independent voters by focusing more on jobs, stressing long-term fiscal balance, and conspicuously pursuing bipartisan agreements wherever possible. Where they aren't, Obama will likely argue that Republicans are blocking reform to protect powerful corporate interests, such as banks. The increased Republican presence in the Senate also will encourage Obama to pack more of his priorities into reconciliation legislation that can't be filibustered. And like Clinton after the 1994 Republican landslide, Obama is likely to focus more on executive actions that allow him to advance his priorities without legislation.