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2012 is the constraint

It’s more than three months away, but the lame duck Congress has become Topic A. John raised the issue last night, speculating that the Dems might use the lame duck session to pass the “cap-and-trade” legislation that Harry Reid put on ice yesterday. Charles Krauthammer adds card check and tax hikes to the mischief list.
John wondered whether some Democrats might have “pangs of conscience about jamming through major, unpopular legislation that they didn’t dare support during the campaign in a lame duck session.” Krauthammer considers this unlikely.
So do I. The consciences of these legislators are left-liberal, not process oriented, in all or nearly all cases.
The more likely constraint is 2012, when the Democrats will be required to defend a large number of Senate seats, including some in red states. It is not pangs of conscience that’s likely to induce defeated Democrats to reject leftist legislation; it is pangs of fear by the non-lame ducks.
The fear will be experienced most acutely by Senators who must face voters in conservative or moderate states. But other Senators, even those in safe Democratic states (if any), have good reason to worry about their less secure colleagues.
Holding a majority in the Senate is a huge deal. Come November, the Dems will probably retain a slim majority, perhaps something in the neighborhood of 52-48. Alternatively, the Republicans might have a razor thin majority of 51-49.
In either case, the 2012 election will determine who controls the Senate in 2013. The Dems will either go into that election clinging to a slight majority or within easy striking distance of regaining a majority. Either prospect should make some of them think long and hard about ramming through unpopular legislation in a Congress that voters will feel has passed its sell-by date.
The Dems may ignore this constraint, just as they were unconstrained by the 2010 election when it came to passing Obamacare. But if anything will constrain them it is that election.

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