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The shift by Senator Specter – and what this means for US politics

It is the wish of every US president to have a compliant Congress that will vote his way for the bills that he wants. Many Presidents have had the horror of having to veto bills that have been passed by Congress that they do not like, and also had the inverse effect of seeing their favorite initiatives doomed due to gridlock in Congress, and even worse, when the Congress is dominated by a party that is the opposite party of the President, every bill and initiative is an effort, with huge expenditure of political capital (Bill Clinton had to contend with a Congress that was dominated by the opposite Republican Party; and lately Bush had to content with a Democratic Majority in his last few months).
Even when the Opposition Party is not the dominant party, they still have the weapon of the ‘filibuster’ to block (or seriously delay) bills that they do not like. What is actually a dream for the President is when his party reaches the magic figure of 60 in the Senate (at which point the Opposition Party cannot even use that weapon). And this is a dream that Obama almost has in his grasp; with the announced decision of Senator Specter to cross over to the Democratic Party, and with the State Supreme Court judgment in the case of another Democratic candidate for Senatorship maybe heading towards the Democrats, the Senate may be heading towards a filibuster majority for the Democrats.

This is introspection time for the Republicans; they are down and out right now – and yet, instead of trying to become more inclusive and including people in the center, a section of the Republicans seems to feel that they need to become more conservative; that they need to go back to their core statements of small Government, fiscal and moral conservatism. A lot of these were dramatically over-turned during the Bush years and the heritage of that era still causes a lot of schisms inside the party. However, unless they try to become more inclusive, it is quite likely that the Republican party will cede control of the moderate sections of the American citizenry.
However, it is not that President Obama has a free run now. As the Democratic party has reached out to people in the center, there are now Senators who have opinions on subjects such as gun control, abortion, fiscal responsibility, etc which are closer to what the traditional views of the Republican Party had, and different from what the Democrats used to believe. As a result, if President Obama wanted to get a bill passed on abortion rights, or on gun control, or on climate change, a lot more opposition will now come from within the Democratic Party rather than outside, as was the case in the past.

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