Liberal Democrats flexed their muscles by coming together to block approval of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Last night’s vote was the first move by a group of Democrats that are set to give Senate Republicans major headaches over the next two years.
The defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline in the Senate marked a major show of muscle for next year’s new hell-no caucus: liberals.
It was a remarkable move for a group that has stood behind Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over the years, as he sought to protect vulnerable moderates, like Landrieu and some of her now-ousted colleagues, from taking tough votes on divisive environmental, health care and social issues.
But red-state Democrats like Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska are on their way out, and liberals like Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse — with Elizabeth Warren leading the way on messaging — may cause as many headaches for Senate Republicans as tea partyers caused Democrats in the past four years.
The good news that comes from being in the Senate minority is that the Democrats who are still there are much more liberal and will play a bigger role in the caucus. Bernie Sanders, who is an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Jeff Merkley are just four of the members of the Democratic caucus will play a larger role in shaping policy. The Democrats no longer have to protect and cater to red state Democrats.
For every Keystone XL that will pass with the support of oil and gas state Democrats, there are three Republican bills that won’t. The Hell No caucus isn’t going to obstruct everything, but they are going stand up for the principles and values of the left.
For example, Senate Republican attacks on regulations that protect the environment are going to be in trouble. Anything that tries to expand Citizens United will likely die, tax reform disguised as a gift to the wealthy will not go very far.
The rules of the Senate make it impossible for Mitch McConnell to do what John Boehner is doing in the House. In the Senate, the minority has power and rights. Republicans abused this power to stop the Senate from functioning. The liberals are promising not to do the same, but life is about to get very difficult for Mitch McConnell and company.
The rise of the Senate liberals in combination with President Obama’s leftward shift may result in the Republican congressional majority being boxed in.
Senate liberals are leading the fight towards 2016, and yesterday’s rejection of Keystone XL was a warning shot designed to let Republicans know that there is a new day coming.
*** Note: The Hell No caucus isn’t an official Senate group, but a collection of liberals who have a set of common ideas that will more often than not vote together.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association