Gina Hamilton

Gina Hamilton

It is too early to predict with any certainty what the various races around the country will do in terms of changing the face of the U.S. Congress, and way too early to predict whether those changes will do anything in terms of the gridlock that exists in Washington. But the foregone conclusion that the Republicans would retake the Senate is beginning to fall by the wayside, and most pundits are hedging their bets now.

That’s because of what’s happening in deeply red states like Georgia, and Kentucky, and

Kansas. That’s right.

We’ve known for a while that Kansas’ governor, Sam Brownback, is in serious trouble, because the notion that you can cut taxes and still perform vital functions for the state is just silly, and it hasn’t worked that way at all. But no one saw the Republicans in Kansas’ Senate race being in trouble until this week. Pat Roberts, admittedly a pretty unpopular Republican senator, was thought to be a shoo-in because he had a three way race with Greg Orman, a progressiveleaning indepdent who would be likely to caucus with the Democrats, and a Democrat, Chad Taylor. Taylor announced he’s leaving the race on Sept. 3, and still has about six percent of the support. But Orman picked up virtually all the rest of Taylor’s voters. Right now … and we’re still some weeks from election day … Orman leads Roberts 41 percent to 34 percent. Roberts is only garnering 55 percent of Republican voters. He’s unpopular, apparently, because he voted against the government funding of an agro and bio defense facility at the university, that would have generated almost 700 permanent jobs for people in Kansas.

In Georgia, where there has been a great deal of voter registration among minority communities in advance of the election, Democrat Michelle Nunn is giving

Republican David Perdue a run for his money. She’s currently 3 points ahead of him, in good old reliably red Georgia. It doesn’t hurt that she has a famous name — she is the daughter of Sen. Sam Nunn — and Georgia looks like it might end up with a Democratic governor, too, Jason Carter, who is the grandson of Jimmy Carter.

In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell and Alison Grimes are locked in a dead heat, although in a couple of recent polls, McConnell seems to be gaining some traction. Still, the race is very much a toss-up, and it’s telling that in a supposedly Republican year that the Senate Minority Leader, together with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, might both find themselves out of power.

Right now, based on polling data, it looks like of the seats up for election, the Democrats will get or keep Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Delaware, Virginia, Massachusetts, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Hawaii, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.

The Republicans will likely take or keep Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, West Virginia, and South Carolina.

Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Georgia are too close to call, Kansas is likely to go to the independent, and much will depend on the various get out the vote strategies of the parties on election day.

By our reckoning, that means that, barring some last-minute movement in states like Louisiana and Arkansas, the Dems will keep control of the Senate, perhaps with one fewer seat than they had in the last Congress, although it could be one seat either way of that.

So what will that mean for the U.S., the Obama administration agenda, and our bank accounts?

In the short term, probably not much. President Obama has announced that he will take executive action on certain things, but few if any of them are economic, because Congress holds the purse strings and there is little that Obama can do about that. His plans for post-election executive orders include a sweeping overhaul of the immigration system, some changes to the Veterans Administration, making sure veterans and their families get health care in a timely way, and, in the absence of any leadership on paycheck fairness, some women, at least, may get a bit of a raise next year through executive order.

An executive order cannot countermand any existing law, so reversing some of the most damaging aspects of Congressional action on the economy will have to wait until there is a more rational Congress. Obama cannot, for instance, reinstate Glass-Steagall on his own, or rescind the 1999 Commodity Futures Modernization Act. However, he can apply existing law to other injured parties, or direct some federal department to enforce existing law. There is, for instance, a 50-yearold law called the Equal Pay Act, which was designed to prohibit discrimination on account of sex. It has rarely been enforced. But Obama could direct the Department of Labor to assume enforcement of the Act and repealing its numerous exemptions, thereby circumventing the failure of Congress to pass meaningful paycheck fairness law.

Executive action is not the best method of governance to be sure, but someone has to do something. With Congress unable or unwilling to do its job, and no real change on the horizon after the election, executive orders may be the only option.

Some things simply can’t wait for the next president.


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