The 110th congress saw the most obstruction in history, literally. The Republican minority in the Senate forced cloture votes well over 100 times, shattering the previous high mark of 61. Now that Democrats are likely within reach of 60 votes on major progressive priorities like establishing a universal health care system and capping CO2 emissions, Senator Bayh is determined to sabotage his party.
To suggest that this move is intended to "break the gridlock" is extremely disingenuous. The intended effect is the opposite. Namely, to support do-nothing Republican Senators in their perpetual quest to make sure the Senate is never able to pass any worthwhile legislation. To borrow a phrase from Yossarian, "The enemy is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on." Kagro X explains:
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) is trying to mobilize moderate Democratic Senators to form a group based loosely on the House Blue Dog Coalition.
"I think we have a wonderful opportunity to break the gridlock that has existed in Washington for too long," Bayh said in an interview. "We need to do that in practical ways that will solve problems. The place that will be most important in striking that right balance will be in theSenate."
If Senate Majority Leader Reid had just an ounce of integrity he would at least make an attempt to prevent the formal fracturing of his caucus. This is not the case:
As critical as I've been of the Myth of 60, I do recognize that breaking gridlock in the Senate is chiefly a matter of overcoming the filibuster, and that's done by unifying a bloc of 60 votes on questions of cloture. Following the 2008 elections, Senate Democrats are closer to being able to make that a working reality just among themselves than they have been in decades, and here comes Evan Bayh, declaring that the message of the 2008 results is that it's time to fracture the largest Senate Democratic Caucus since 1970s and become a thumb-sucking holdout instead.
Steve Benen explains why this is so dangerous at a time when economists of all stripes are in agreement that a major spending package is needed. He writes:
"Nearly a decade of Republican fiscal irresponsibility has contributed to our current economic crisis," Reid spokesman Jim Manley said in an e-mail statement. "That is why Sen. Reid welcomes Sen. Bayh's decision to form this group. For we know that Sen. Bayh, like all Democrats, is committed to restoring our nation's fiscal and economic health."
In the House, the Blue Dogs are not only overly cozy with corporate lobbyists, this is a coalition reluctant to embrace a progressive vision on issues like climate change, and committed to a financial plan focused on spending reductions and balanced budgets -- precisely when the federal government needs to be doing the opposite.
Unfortunately, given the politics of the Hoosier state, the odds of electing a better Democrat are quite low. Indiana is rated R+7 on the Cook political index. Bayh is incredibly popular in the state, especially for a Democrat. The most recent numbers I've seen have his approve/disapprove at 58/32. It is highly unlikely that Bayh will face a significant primary challenge in 2010.
In some ways, having Bayh in the seat is worse than having a Republican. Not only does he seem poised to move even further to the right, but he also provides incredible cover for Senate Republicans whose legislative strategy has been reduced to gumming up the works at every opportunity. It will be hard for Senate Democrats to place the blame squarely on obstructionist Republicans if a group of worthless conservative Democrats led by Senator Bayh is helping them get to 40 on major issue after major issue.