* Democrats' U.S. Senate super-majority at risk
* Republicans would be able to block legislation
* Obama efforts would need bipartisan support
By Thomas Ferraro
Jan 15 U.S. President Barack Obama will face a
far tougher fight advancing his agenda if a Republican wins
Tuesday's special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts.
On matters from healthcare reform to judicial nominees,
Obama would no longer be able to prevail in the Senate with the
support of only fellow Democrats. He would need at least one
Republican -- and that could be difficult.
Obama is scheduled to campaign on Sunday in Massachusetts
for Martha Coakley who is vying with Republican Scott Brown to
replace the late Senator Edward Kennedy, a liberal icon who
held the seat for nearly 50 years. [ID:nN15228424]
A Republican victory in this leading Democratic state would
rock Washington and transform the political landscape ahead of
the November congressional elections.
Here's a look at the issues if Democrats lose:
Democrats would lose their 60-vote Senate super-majority
that now lets them clear Republican procedural hurdles and pass
legislation or confirm presidential nominees without a single
If Democrats are stripped of such a majority, Obama would
be forced to try to find common ground with Republicans, who
have opposed most of his agenda, including his landmark bid to
revamp the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system.
A super-majority has not always been super for Democrats as
they have often had difficulty sticking together and mustering
60 votes. But it would be a far more difficult if Brown becomes
the 41st Republican in the 100-member chamber.
Democratic leaders are pushing to win final approval of a
sweeping healthcare bill so Obama can sign it into law before a
possibly victorious Brown is sworn in as a senator and is
positioned to help fellow Republicans kill the measure.
It could take at least a couple of weeks for Massachusetts
to certify the winner. Democrats may seek to delay the
certification, while Republicans would likely push to
accelerate it. Either way, expect a battle.
Democrats are certain to remind Republicans that they
didn't rush the seating in the Senate of Al Franken, after a
marathon court challenge of his razor-close race in Minnesota.
Franken gave Democrats their 60th vote. It marked the first
time that either party had a filibuster-proof 60 senators since
1979, when Democrats had 61 and Jimmy Carter was president.
* GLOBAL WARMING, FINANCIAL REGULATION
A Republican victory in Massachusetts could slam the brakes
on a number of the president's efforts in Washington.
An already uphill battle to win passage of legislation to
stem global warming would suddenly become much tougher.
Same with legislation to tighten regulation of the U.S.
* REPUBLICAN MODERATES
With the Republican Party shifting further to the right in
recent years, Republicans considered moderate in the Senate
have dwindled to Maine's Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.
Democrats will likely target the pair for a possible 60th
vote on a variety of matters, making Collins and Snowe
That's what Democrats did earlier this year in winning
passage of Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package.
* POLITICAL CLIMATE
A Republican victory in Massachusetts, one of the nation's
most liberal states, would be seen by many as a repudiation of
Obama and his fellow Democrats in Congress.
A key issue in the race has been the healthcare
legislation, which has proven to be highly unpopular.
Matt Bennett of Third Way, a political think tank, said the
Massachusetts race "shows that moderates are unhappy with the
direction of the country."
"Moderates are uneasy, angry, nervous," Bennett said,
adding that they doubt that efforts in Washington on a host of
fronts will do them any good.
While the Massachusetts race has energized Republicans,
particularly grass-roots conservative activists, Bennett said
the contest may also be a "wake-up call to Democrats."
Others might blame Coakley for running a lackluster
campaign, much like the criticism Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
suffered when she lost the 2002 governors' race in Maryland,
another heavily Democratic state. She is Edward Kennedy's
At the U.S. Capitol on Friday, Democrats were shaken by the
thought of a Republican win in Massachusetts.
"The notion of Ted Kennedy's seat not being won by a
Democrat is hard for many of us to swallow," said Democratic
Representative Jan Schakowsky, adding that she is among those
in the party who have sent money to Coakley's campaign.
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; editing by Matthew
Bigg and Vicki Allen)