OK, we have our new Congress, and Speaker Boehner holds the big gavel. There’s a new sheriff in town, and things are gonna be different. But let’s keep some very important numbers in mind.
218: The number of Representatives required to pass a bill out of the House.
242: The number of Republican Representatives in the House.
193: The number of Democrats in the House of Representatives.
290: The number of Representatives needed to override a presidential veto.
51: The official number of Democrats in the Senate.
53: The effective number of Democrats in the Senate.
47: The number of Republicans in the Senate.
50: The technical number of Senators required to pass a measure (presuming the Vice President is present and favors the measure).
60: The practical number of Senators needed to pass a measure that is staunchly opposed by a unified group.
67: The number of Senators needed to override a presidential veto:
1: The number of Democratic presidents who sign or veto bills passed by both Houses.
0: The number of Republican presidents who sign or veto bills passed by both Houses.
Under the current Congressional makup, the Republicans have the numbers to pass whatever the hell they want. But they need to persuade a minimum of 3-4 Democrats to get that bill through the Senate and to the president. And should he veto the measure, they will need at least 38 Democrats — one out of five — to get it overridden in the House. In the Senate, it’s even more daunting — they will have to win over two out of every five Democratic Senators to override that veto.
On the other hand, in order to get their way, the Democrats will have to peel off 25 Republican Representatives and seven Senators — or one in ten and one in seven.
Of course, that is strictly on a partisan basis. Not all votes will fall on a purely partisan basis.
But with all the hoopla about the Republicans, it’s worth noting that the Democrats — who held took both Houses of Congress in 2006 and the presidency in 2008 — still hold the reins of power. That hasn’t stopped them from blaming the Republicans for everything, and it certainly won’t stop them from continuing to do so now that the Republicans took back one House.
Just keep those numbers in mind. The Republicans’ power is largely negative now; they can’t do anything constructive without the assent of at least some Democrats. But they can effectively check the Democrats from doing things — because the Democrats will need to sway at least a relatively small number of Republicans to get their items through.
So, we have two likely outcomes to the situation: a Congress that learns to put partisanship aside, at least some of the time, or a deadlocked government that ends up doing very, very little.
Personally, I don’t see much of a downside to either outcome.