A Divided U.S. Senate Could Restore Power to the Moderates


Photo by Michal Matlon | Unsplash

Photo by Michal Matlon | Unsplash

With the current makeup of elected members of the US Senate standing at 50 republicans and 48 democrats, the outcome of two senate races in Georgia on Jan 5 will determine which party will hold a slim and unmanageable majority in Washington the next two years.

 

“We want to be clear that a 50-seat majority is really no kind of majority at all. Keeping all 50 senators of either the Republican caucus or the Democratic caucus united under those circumstances is extremely difficult,” said Henrietta Treyz, director of economic policy for Veda Partners.

 

That is good news for millions of moderate and independent-minded Americans because it provides an opportunity for a dozen or so moderate Senators from both parties to form a bipartisan coalition and reach a common-sense consensus for the American people.

 

A working group of Senators called the Gang of Eight has formed to pass a COVID relief bill before leaving for the holiday break. Ten senators stood together at a press conference to call for helping the American people. They are Republicans Bill Cassidy (LA), Mitt Romney (UT), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Susan Collins (MA), and Rob Portman (OH) with their Democratic colleagues Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Joe Manchin (WV), Maggie Hassan (NH), and Mark Warner (VA). And don’t forget Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine, who won election and re-election as an Independent but caucuses the Democrats.

 

And more like-minded Senators could join a coalition to move the country forward in a non-partisan manner. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, has said, “Everyone’s frustrated. There are Senators on both sides that are very frustrated that essentially the Senate has stopped functioning.”

 

Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) has called Sen. Manchin a role model and has written a book about working across party lines. Then, Senator Michael Bennet (CO) ran for President as a moderate Democrat, and Republican Senator Ben Sasse (NE), who has bucked his party leadership before. 

 

Republican Senators Shelley Capito (WV), Marco Rubio (FL), and Chuck Grassley (IA) are also worth considering. According to the annual Bipartisan Index by Georgetown University’s Lugar Center, these three Senators were among the Top 10 most bipartisan Senators. (Capito was ranked 7th, Rubio was 9th, and Grassley was 10th, respectively.)

 

On paper, this is a fulcrum of moderates who are vocal about bipartisan governance.

Read ‘It’s Time for the ‘America Caucus’ in the U.S. Senate’

 

We should also note some of the wildcards who are not shy about reaching across the aisle on specific issues. Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Sen. Josh Hawley (MO) – who are often in opposition – have cosponsored an amendment which would award $1,200 payments for being sent to Americans before the end of the year. 

 

Eight moderate Senators proposed two pieces of COVID relief legislation totaling $908 billion. One bill would provide relief to students, families, businesses, workers, and health care providers, while the second bill would include liability protections and funding for state and local governments.

 

“It came together when a group of eight people said, ‘There’s got to be a better way,” said Sen. Murkowski. Senators Collins and Warner wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post stating, “We felt the stakes were simply too high to allow partisan warfare to prevent us from delivering relief. The process, too, can serve as a template for progress on other difficult but vital issues in our closely divided Senate.”

 

Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough said on the PBS: “Expanding out to six, seven, eight, nine, ten moderates in the Senate really is the most important development if you’re trying to figure out not what happened to the last four years, but what’s going to happen over the next two years.”

 

Some pundits are calling this group of Senators the “revenge of the moderates.” Honestly, millions of Americans don’t care what they’re called. The 2020 Presidential election saw the highest moderate, independent turnout in decades – the majority of whom voted for Biden and his spirit of compromise. Now is the center’s chance to get back in the driver’s seat and lead us down the center lane of politics.

 

I welcome this opportunity. All I hope these moderates stand up party leadership and do what is right. I have faith the country will have their back.

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