Why Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton must be the next Senate Majority Leader
Senate Majority leaders and Senate minority leaders lead their parties in the Senate, the term that covers both is "floor leader". The Majority Leader is from the Party who holds a majority in the Senate. The current Senate Majority Leader is Harry Reid (who, as it happens, was deeply involved in the results-driven Democratic Party presidential nomination process). Senator Reid holds the post of Majority Leader rather than Minority Leader rather precariously - because at the moment the Democratic majority in the Senate is razor thin. The current majority consists of 51 Senators (with two Independents currently designated as Democrats for purposes of calculating the majority; these is because these Senators are part of the Democratic Senate Caucus). The Republican minority consists of 49 members.
In 2009, the Democrats have a meaningful chance to make their majority large enough to override any Presidential veto of legislation passed by the house. (Such a veto requires 60 votes, and one problem the current Senate has had in controlling the excesses of the Bush-Cheney administration is that the Democratic Party has had insufficient votes to guarantee an override.)
Two basic factors make 2009 a promising one for securing a larger Democratic majority. First, the Republicans have 23 seats at stake whereas the Democrats have only 12. But these numbers alone overstate the opportunity for Democrats to take a more commanding lead in the Senate, because many of the Republicans running for reelection come from "safe" districts.
States with seriously competitive races include Alaska (where the Palin pick helps the Republican candidate despite the disastrous Republican incumbent Ted Stevens, who is under every kind of investigation for every type of corruption imaginable); Colorado; Louisiana; Maine; Minnesota (where Al Franken is challenging a Republican incumbent); Mississippi; New Hampshire; New Mexico; North Carolina; Oregon; and Virginia. [source]
Regardless of how each races turn out though, it is reasonable to predict that the Democrats will go into 2009 with a Majority in the Senate and a larger one than the current one.
An effective Senator Majority Leader not only leads her Party's Senators, she knows when and how to reach across the aisle to work with select Republicans who will co-author good bipartisan bills and Republican Senators who will vote for sensible legislation regardless of Party affiliation. She works closely with the Republican Minority Leader to make these things happen. As described by the U.S. Senate's own website:
Although party floor leadership posts carry great responsibility, they provide few specific powers. Instead, floor leaders have largely had to depend on their individual skill, intelligence, and personality. Majority leaders seek to balance the needs of senators of both parties to express their views fully on a bill with the pressures to move the bill as quickly as possible toward enactment. These conflicting demands have required majority leaders to develop skills in compromise, accommodation, and diplomacy. Lyndon Johnson, who held the post in the 1950s, once said that the greatest power of the majority leader was "the power of persuasion."Senator Clinton is eminently qualified for this role. (Indeed her experience in the Senate and the respect in which she is held there were among the reasons she would have been such an excellent Democratic President this year, since working effectively with the legislative branch, especially the Senate, is a large part of what makes a President successful.) She has the policy ideas and the political savvy that can make the Senate an extremely powerful force for progressive change. Senator Clinton has the respect of foreign leaders the world over.
The majority leader usually works closely with the minority leader so that, as Senator Bob Dole explained, "we never surprise each other on the floor." The party leaders meet frequently with the president and with the leaders of the House of Representatives. The majority leader also greets foreign dignitaries visiting the Capitol.
Furthermore, Senator Clinton now enjoys a popular mandate for her views and policies: she won more votes than any other presidential contender in a primary season ever has; polls show that were she running against John McCain she would be beating him handily; and she is a politician of national prominence who has support from rank and file voters of all affiliations.
Thus, the importance of making sure that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is elected by her Democratic peers to lead them in the Senate. Information on how rank and file Democrats can work toward this objective to follow. Stay tuned.