Obama, Boehner, and the Lessons Learned: Republicans show they haven’t learned much over the last four years
The 2012 election was widely seen as a ratification of the status quo: Obama will remain in the White House, the Republicans are still in charge of the House, and Democrats have a majority in the Senate (if not real control, which is virtually impossible in the age of the omnipresent filibuster). But that analysis has its flaws, starting with the fact that GOP control of the House hangs not on the will of the people—more cast votes for Democratic House candidates than for Republicans—but on two quirks of political geography. One is that Democrats tend to cluster in big cities, thus circumscribing the scope of their influence. The other is that Republicans used the recent redistricting process to solidify their majority.
But there are broader differences. Even the returning characters bring new wrinkles to the politics of President Obama’s second term, depending on the lessons they learned, or failed to, over the last four years.
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Take the Senate Democrats who suffer the unique disadvantage of having ostensible but not functional control of their chamber. Where the filibuster was once a rarity, it has become the rule. Nothing can pass without a supermajority. This is a large part of the reason that the current Congress is, according to NBC News, on track to pass the fewest bills into law since the Clerk of the House started keeping track of these things in the 1940s. The famous “do-nothing Congress” of 1947-1948? It passed 906 laws—710 more than the current group had passed entering its lame-duck session.