59 is an important number for Mary Landrieu, and not just because she turns that age this week. 59 is the number of votes Obamacare would have received in the Senate if Landrieu hadn’t voted for the legislation. In this scenario, Obamacare would have been defeated and Landrieu probably would have been reelected Senator earlier this month, or be headed for reelection in a runoff.
59 is also the number of Senators who voted for the Keystone pipeline yesterday. Landrieu thus fell one vote short in her quest to save her Senate seat by pushing the pipeline legislation through.
Taken together, the two votes — on Obamacare and on the pipeline — tell a tale. Landrieu loyally cast the deciding vote to pass Obamacare knowing that it might well significantly hurt her standing with Louisiana voters. In other words, she took one for the team.
When it came to the pipeline vote, the team refused to take one for Landrieu. The Dems who voted for the pipeline were mainly Senators from Red States (several of whom were defeated) or swing states. None of the hardcore liberals joined Landrieu.
Landrieu had hoped that Dick Durbin would be her 60th vote. After all, like several other liberal Dems, he just won reelection and has little reason to fear a serious primary challenge six years from now. Moreover, a 60th vote would not have meant the building of the pipeline. President Obama would almost certainly have vetoed the legislation.
Durbin and his liberal colleagues may have wished to avoid putting Obama in the position of having to veto the pipeline. But it’s far from clear that Obama will be spared. In the next Congress, 54 Republicans can be expected to vote for the pipeline. If about half of the returning Dems who voted for it yesterday stick to that vote, the legislation will pass and Obama will be in the hot seat.
Durbin and company probably believe that Landrieu has virtually no chance of winning the runoff regardless of the pipeline vote. Very likely, they are right. But, as noted, the pipeline legislation had virtually no chance of being enacted regardless of the pipeline vote. Under these circumstances, Landrieu will surely feel that her liberal colleagues let her down big time.
Sadly, there is nothing lower in the Washington pecking order than a Senator who has just been defeated or whose imminent defeat is certain. Nor, under any circumstances, are the likes of Dick Durbin plagued by sentimentality or considerations of personal loyalty.
Presumably, the remaining Red and swing state Senate Democrats have watched this episode closely. Presumably, they have concluded that taking one for their team doesn’t pay.