The Obama administration acknowledged on Thursday that its political "calculus" will change later that day with the seating of Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass) and the ensuing loss of the Democratic supermajority in the Senate.
But if a new and less favorable landscape is on the horizon, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gave little indication that the president is going to dramatically adjust how he conducts legislative business. Asked by the Huffington Post whether the White House will push for Republicans to actually carry out filibusters rather than simply threaten them, Gibbs demurred.
"What I'd like to see is that, whether you agree or disagree with the nominee, they receive an up or down vote so that they can begin to do the work for the American people on important jobs that can and should be done," he said.
It won't take long for the administration to see if Republicans will soften up on their parliamentary obstructionism. Two important appointees -- Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board and Dawn Johnsen to the Justice Department -- are set to pass through Senate committees in the days and weeks ahead. Thereafter, their nominations will come to the Senate floor. Both individuals were held up by GOP objections in the last Congress. And the betting money seems to be that, with Brown's seating, neither will make it through confirmation again.
Gibbs didn't weigh in on either nomination process. Though HuffPost reported on Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is considering pushing to have the appointments made during recess -- which would get both Becker and Johnsen to their posts but only allow them to serve through December 2011.
Pressed about how having 59 senators would change things in Washington, Gibbs stressed that the impetus now rested on Republicans to stop obstructing and start governing.
"I think it changes everybody's calculus as to taking responsibility for governing this country," he said. "I think the president acknowledged as much during the State of the Union. No longer can one party alone -- assuming that what is insisted upon is 60 votes in the United States Senate -- no longer can one party alone hold its members and make progress on important issues for the American people. That is why the president has asked again that Democrats and Republicans work together to make that progress."
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