On November 4th Americans decided to make changes in their leadership by voting out elected officials who they felt were not doing their jobs. While this was not overwhelming, it is still significant to note the numbers. Out of 35 decided Senate races, the GOP picked up 8 new seats, meaning they defeated Democrat incumbents or won seats previously held by Democrats. In Louisiana, the race has gone to a runoff between Democrat incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu and GOP Congressman Bill Cassidy. Cassidy is leading Landrieu in the polls by a comfortable margin, likely giving the GOP a 9th pick up in the Senate this year, and adding the new GOP majority. In the House of Representatives, the GOP picked up 12 new seats, adding to their already significant majority. In the gubernatorial races the GOP picked up 3 new states, Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts, while the Democrats picked up Pennsylvania.
So many have taken the time to look at all of the numbers, and everyone knows this was clear Republican victory, but what does this all really mean? Here are just a few examples:
-Harry Reid is no longer the Senate Majority Leader.
-For the first time since first elected President of the United States, President Obama will face majority opposition in both chambers of Congress.
-President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Reid and other Democrats are likely to push through quite a bit of legislation before the lame duck session is up.
It is important to note that this is just a short list, there is a lot more at stake than many see at first, but perhaps the most important point, and the one that needs the most explanation, is that the Republican victory doesn’t mean anything if we don’t see the change that the newly elected officials are advocating for. Politicians need to follow through on the promises they made when running for office, or else this election will not mean much of anything. Whether they like it or not, Republicans will have to find a way to work with Democrats and President Obama, and vice versa. Elected officials also need to remember that they are still accountable to the people, as this election proved for many irresponsible Democrats and Republicans.
The Senate in particular will be an interesting case to watch, as Republicans have gained 8 seats to have a 53-45 majority at this time. With the race in Louisiana likely to go to the Republicans and the two Independents in the Senate likely to continue to caucus with the Democrats, the final majority will likely be 54-46 for Republicans. This also means that the current Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, is likely to be the new Senate Majority Leader unless Conservatives mount strong opposition. The Senate has been a strong point for contention over the past few years, both between Republicans and Democrats and between Moderate Republicans and Conservatives. It will be interesting to see how this plays out now with a few more Senators joining each side in the Republican Party.
However, the more pressing issue is what could happen before the new Senators are to take office. Yesterday President Obama announced that he would be using an Executive Order to implement his ten point plan on Immigration reform. A group of Conservatives have already sent a letter to the President telling him that acting on immigration before the new Congressional session would be unconstitutional and wrong. These Senators certainly make a valid point, as not only should the President be going through Congress to pass legislation, but outgoing Senators, no matter what party they are from, should not be making decisions they will not have to answer for. The American people already decided they do not trust those officials to make those decisions for them anymore, so they should not be able to pass controversial legislation before they leave office.
On a similar note, President Obama has also nominated his choice for Attorney General, Loretta Lynch. While Lynch is not yet seen as a controversial figure, Conservative Senators such as Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have already stated their interest in knowing where Ms. Lynch stands on some of President Obama’s controversial actions, including immigration. It would be fair to again have the nomination wait for the new Senate so proceedings are not rushed and Senators who do not have to answer to the people are not the ones voting on the nomination.
Also in December another debate on the budget will be coming up. It would likely be in the best interest of the Senate and the House to pass something small that would keep the government running until the new Congress has a chance to make a long term deal, as they were the leaders elected to do that job.
As we go into these next few months we must always remember that these elected officials are responsible to the people that elected them and must be watched closely. Many have asked me if I am happy with last Tuesday’s result, and my response has always been the same, we have to wait and see. We cannot tell yet if the new Congress will be more or less successful than those before. It is only fair to wait and see what happens before we pass any previous judgment, for either side. Democrats should not assume Republicans will “change the world as we know it”(Nancy Pelosi) and Republicans should not assume that everything will be better now simply because Republicans are in power. It is up to the people to watch their elected officials, and if they are not doing their jobs, vote them out of office next time they are up for re-election. Every American has a voice, they do not have to sit around and wait if their elected officials are not doing their jobs. I hope that in the next election even more people vote and make their voices be heard.
Listen to Pat OBrien Sundays from 4-6 PM on “Your News Perception” on WNEK “The Voice” to hear more on politics, foreign policy and domestic issues.