It takes 60 votes to overcome filibusters in the Senate, and Republicans only have 52.
It is impossible to know how this unprecedented drama will unfold for them. As the nonpartisan Cook Political Report put it in a recent analysis: “The reality is that no one has any idea what the political environment is going to look like in the summer and fall of 2018.
In political terms, the Democratic 10 actually divide into two subgroups, those from states Mr. Trump carried easily and those from states he barely won. In the former category are West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, Montana’s Jon Tester, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly. On the other end of the scale are those from states Mr. Trump won in a squeaker: Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, Florida’s Bill Nelson and Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow. Somewhere in the middle is Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, from a state Mr. Trump won by eight points.
Ideologically, the group ranges from a true liberal, Mr. Brown, to a group of moderate to conservative Democrats, such as Sens. Manchin, Tester and Heitkamp. Indeed, the Trump transition team even considered offering Mr. Manchin and Ms. Heitkamp jobs in the administration, a move that might clear the way for them to be replaced in the Senate by Republicans.
The key question is where some combination of ideological affinity and political pressure might compel some of these susceptible Democrats to cross party lines to support the Trump agenda. That is most likely to happen on environmental issues, where home-state politics may push these swing Democrats into line with the Trump agenda, Senate aides say.
It is less clear that Republicans can woo enough of them to get to 60 votes on questions such as dismantling the Dodd-Frank financial regulations. On health care, some of these Democrats likely will be sympathetic to the call for repealing the Affordable Care Act, but probably only if there is a clear alternative in hand to replace it.
The biggest question mark is where the Democratic 10 will land on key economic issues. On some of those questions—particularly Mr. Trump’s talk of imposing big tariffs on some imports and generating big spending on infrastructure projects—he may have at least as much trouble unifying his own Republicans as he has wooing these Democrats.
Some of the swing Democrats may be open to voting for a Trump tax cut. Predictions are hard on that front because of uncertainty about the shape and details of the Republicans’ 2017 tax plan. How big a tax break will it offer top earners? And will the plan include trims of some kind to Medicare and Social Security spending? Those two questions will be key in determining whether any Democrats can jump on board.
One thing these Democrats know is that they will enter the 2018 election cycle with a giant bull’s-eye on their backs. Republicans will consider them the most vulnerable opponents in a year in which Democrats will have to defend a stunning 25 Senate seats—including two independents who caucus with Democrats—of the 33 up for re-election.
Mixed Bag for Two Years
I suspect a mixed bag for the next two years. Obamacare is so widely hated that it’s likely be dismantled. Tariffs will be disastrous, but unless there is a Democratic filibuster, expect such legislation to pass, provided Trump was not just blowing protectionist campaign smoke.
In 2018, Republicans are highly likely to pick up at least a handful of Senate seats, even if there is a recession. That might be enough as it would then only take another two Democrats to go along with the Trump agenda.
Can Republicans pick up eight?
Mike “Mish” Shedlock