Speed Reads

the other side of the aisle

Why a deeply divided Senate may be a greater threat to Democrats than Republicans

If you are one of the few Americans paying attention to the happenings on Capitol Hill as of late, you might feel frustrated or even baffled at the legislative hold-up, particularly in the case of the 50-50 Senate (which Democrats control with Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote). 

Unluckily for Senate Democrats, however, the chamber's deep partisan divide (and resulting inability to get much done) likely bodes most ominously for them in the long-term, for a few reasons, writes Ronald Brownstein for CNN.

First off, Democrats "typically try to pass more legislation than Republicans," Brownstein writes. But on top of that, the "core trend" behind the polarization — which is the "increasing alignment of presidential and Senate outcomes in the states" — "tends to magnify Republican influence in the chamber."

More specifically, Democrats have a "much broader legislative agenda" than the GOP and its filibuster-proof goals of cutting taxes and appointing judges and justices. "As long as the filibuster remains in place, a bigger share of the Democratic legislative wish list — everything from immigration to gun control and voting rights — requires 60 votes," writes Brownstein.

Furthermore, Democrats represent "a more diverse electoral coalition," and therefore have a "broader ideological range" among their senators than Republicans. This lends itself to divide and sometimes inaction.

And finally, in terms of the maximum number of winnable Senate seats under normal circumstances, Democrats likely have a slightly lower ceiling than Republicans — despite Democrats faring well in presidential elections in the last two decades, Republicans have "won slightly more states a majority of the time" during that same period, writes Brownstein.

So what options do Democrats have? Filibuster carve-outs could be a good place to start, said former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), a centrist. "That at least would help get some things done."