In the Wilderness: If GOP takes Senate majority, many Dems will face minority “culture shock”

Harry Reid's Minority

If tomorrow’s election results pan out the way most political prognosticators predict, a majority of Democrats will be in the minority for the first time in their Senate careers, according to The Hill.

From their write-up:

Only 17 Democrats who could serve in the next Senate were in office eight years ago, the last time the GOP held the levers of power.

With Republicans favored on Election Day, the new class of Democrats might be in for a rude awakening come January, when the perks of the majority could be stripped away.

“It will be a shock for Democrats to move into the minority,” said Jim Manley, a former spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

The indignities of serving under the opposing party are legion.

The first blow is the loss of committee chairmanships, which senators use to draft legislation, conduct oversight and draw attention to pet causes.

Democrats would be demoted to the ranking members of committees and forced to downsize by letting go of staffers who aren’t wanted on the new majority’s payroll.

Perhaps worst of all, some Democrats would have to pack up their things as Republicans dole out the spoils of office space.

This is part of the Washington back-and-forth. Ousted Senate Democrats’ soon-to-be-former staffers will either head back to their home states or head to the nearest left-wing interest group or think tank, while Republican staffers — in the wilderness since 2006 — will leave their posts at think tanks and other organizations to head to the Hill.

But is that the only thing that will change?

The Senate is a place full of pomp and circumstance, of dignity and decorum — except when it isn’t. The Washington Post covered the rocky relationship between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell last year, noting:

Reid’s comments mark a new low in a relationship that has deteriorated gradually over the past few years — and far more rapidly in the past few weeks. While they were never best buddies, Reid and McConnell were once able to work together to keep the Senate functioning. (““They are as close as two people with limited social skills can be,” one Democratic aide told The Hill a few years ago.) While they would criticize each other’s tactics, they would maintain Senate decorum.

“Historically, they both approached the Senate the same way,” said former senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. “They’re both people of the Senate, both masters of the floor, masters of the rules, and they understood that both sides had to be reasonably transparent with the other. They told each other what they were going to do, and they did it.”

If Republicans take the Senate tomorrow (or in December with Louisiana or January with Georgia), McConnell has promised to return the decorum and dignity that has been lost under Majority Leader Reid.

New York Magazine reported (albeit skeptically) last week:

If Republicans recapture the Senate majority, Mitch McConnell has a plan for what he’ll do. He will restore the Senate to its glorious, dignified place in American political life. McConnell has delivered a series of speeches expounding on his plans to restore the Senate to its halcyon place before Harry Reid degraded the institution. In a speech early this year that McConnell is now apparently highlighting, he delivered a paean to Senatorial grandeur…

One thing is for certain: Republican control of the Senate means more legislation will make it to President Obama’s desk. The debate will no longer be about gridlock in Congress, but about the President’s refusal to compromise with Congressional Republicans — a narrative the Republicans in Congress have failed to establish since John Boehner took the Speaker’s Gavel from Nancy Pelosi in 2011.

Of course, the Republican Senate majoriy may be short-lived. In 2016, Republicans will likely have to defend 24 seats in states like Wisconsin, Illinois, and North Carolina — to the Democrats’ 10 in largely safe blue states.

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