Chill Out, Democrats; 60 Votes Means Bupkis

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2009 9:45 AM CDT
Democrat Al Franken with his wife Franni at his side, speak with the media outside their home in Minneapolis, Tuesday June 30, 2009.   (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Brian Peterson)
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(Newser) – Al Franken is a senator at last, giving the Democrats their first 60-vote supermajority in 30 years. But that might not mean much, writes David Lightman of McClatchy Newspapers. Two of those votes belong to seriously ill senators, and another two are merely semi-reliable independents. Add in the disparate local interests every senator has, and Franken’s arrival is unlikely to be a major game-changer.

“It’s a numerical achievement, but not necessarily a political one,” said one political science professor. On issues from climate change to health care, getting Democrats to agree has been problematic. But Republicans insist 60 is a big deal. “It’s troubling to think what they might now accomplish,” said John Cornyn. And Democrats are optimistic, too. “It will help our ability to get to the underlying issues more quickly,” said Thomas Carper.