For conservatives, the magic number in this election may not be 44, as in who will be the 44th President, but arguably 41, as in the minimum number of Republican Senators necessary to sustain a filibuster and stop the liberal Democratic majority from passing whatever bill it wants.
The Democrats currently hold a slim 51-49 majority, with two independents giving them effective control of the U.S. Senate. However, the recent financial market turmoil has hurt Republicans politically, and put the Democrats within reach of the magic 60 seats, a filibuster-proof supermajority, which most political observers did not think was possible just a few weeks ago. Nearly a dozen Senate Republican incumbents – including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky – are now in tight races against Democrat challengers.
Leader McConnell is in one of the toughest races of his political career. A September Mason-Dixon poll showed Senator McConnell leading his opponent Democrat Bruce Lunsford by only one percentage point – 45 to 44 percent. Although McConnell’s own campaign polling now shows him with a double-digit lead, the liberal Democrat establishment smells blood in the water and has poured millions of dollars into independent expenditure campaigns to defeat him. Why? Senator McConnell stands in the way of their extreme liberal agenda.
Over the past two years, the McConnell-led Senate GOP minority has become an effective “firewall” against bad legislation passed by the House. Consider the following:
Minimum Wage. In 2007, the House passed legislation increasing the minimum wage, which would have imposed disproportionate burdens on small employers. Because the Senate Democrats were unable to get the 60 votes needed to pass the House bill, they were forced to accept GOP demands to add the needed tax relief for small businesses.
Energy Tax Increases. Also in 2007, the House passed an energy bill that included big tax increases that would have hurt energy production. Senate Democrats tried to end debate on the energy bill two times, but ran into staunch Republican resistance.
Alternative Minimum Tax. The House passed legislation to temporarily shield 19 million taxpayers from being hit by the Alternative Minimum Tax, ironically a scheme dreamed up by liberals to make sure the so-called rich paid their fair share in taxes. However, the House AMT fix included tax increases, which ran into a Senate GOP filibuster. In the end, the Senate Democrats were forced to pass the AMT fix without the House-passed tax increases.