Now That the Senate Has Picked New Leaders, Will We Get New Policies?

Congress is meeting for their lame duck session, and that also includes reevaluating the results of the election, deciding what priorities will be when the 2015 Congress meets and who should be shaping that vision. For Republicans, the party joined together in unity behind Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, raised up from his current spot as Minority Leader, while Nevada Senator Harry Reid will switch into the Minority Leader role from his current position in the majority.

While the minority/majority swap wasn’t much of a surprise (despite a rumor for a rough few days that popular Tea Party firebrand Ted Cruz might want to rumble over the title), Democrats did manage to shake things up a little by elevating some women into the upper echelon of party leadership. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was brought in to replace a leadership position that was held prior by Alaska Senator Mark Begich, who just lost an extremely tight reelection. Also, a completely new position was created for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a sign to many that perhaps maybe, finally, the Democrats might be willing to listen to the more progressive side of their party.

“Warren’s new role, which was created specifically for her, will be strategic policy adviser to the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, helping to craft the party’s policy positions and priorities,” reports Huffington Post. “She will also serve as a liaison to progressive groups to ensure they have a voice in leadership meetings and discussions, according to a source familiar with the role.”

Progressive groups having a voice in meetings is a good thing, especially while the Democrats hold the minority, which is going to leave them both unable to pass their own policy priorities and tempted to compromise with conservative ones simply in order to appear like they are doing something as lawmakers. Progressive groups are going to earnestly need a path to remind Democratic senators that they will not get away with allowing Republican lawmakers to gut social security, rescind any parts of the Affordable Care Act, or any number of the other far right action items that will be placed in front of them in the next two years.

In that respect, Warren promised to deliver. “I believe in what the Democrats are fighting for. You know, Wall Street is doing very well, CEOs are bringing in millions more, and families all across this country are struggling,” she said, according to the Washington Times. “We have to make this government work for the American people. And that’s what we’re here to fight for. And I am grateful to the leader. I am grateful to the caucus for giving me a chance to be part of that fight.”

While Warren is trying to raise the spirits of discouraged progressives, McConnell, on the other hand, is already being pushed by his own supporters to give them what he promised them in order to get reelection support and the role of Majority Leader. To start with, that means a 20 week abortion ban, and an Obamacare repeal. As Lifenews notes, he promised both, and they expect him to come through. “We are encouraged with the new pro-life Senate and look forward to a vote on our top legislative priority, the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This compassionate, popular legislation will protect the lives of more than 18,000 unborn children per year,” SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser told the anti-abortion news site. “Leader McConnell has a 100 percent pro-life voting record and has pledged to bring the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to the floor for a vote.”

“Leader McConnell is and has always been committed to the full repeal of Obamacare, and he’ll continue to lead efforts to repeal and replace it with patient-centered reforms that enable greater choice at lower costs. He knows it won’t be easy, but he also believes that if Republicans are fortunate enough to take back the majority we’ll owe it to the American people to try through votes on full repeal, the bill’s most onerous provisions, and reconciliation,” McConnell spokesman Brian McGuire wrote in an emailed statement to the same site, which reminded its readers, “Last month, McConnell said he would be willing to repeal Obamacare with a simple majority.”

With a short lame duck session to finish first, 2015 already looks like a legislative session that will be full of butting heads, dueling policies, and outside action groups hoping to see politicians represent their demands. Will anything actually get accomplished, though? If not, well, then it will probably just look a lot like 2013. And 2012. And 2011. And so on.