Ken Salazar's Brilliant Plan to Empower Senate Republicans

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 22 2013 3:19 PM

Ken Salazar's Brilliant Plan to Empower Senate Republicans

If you're a Democrat, and you're happy when Democrats pass bills that you like, then you'll instantly hate this idea.

Add another name to the possible candidates for Interior secretary, a post that will be vacant when Ken Salazar departs the agency in March: Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.)
We hear Salazar suggested Udall as a potential replacement, and that his name has been sent to the White House for consideration.
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Salazar jumped to the Obama administration from the Senate, and Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter got to pick his replacement -- Michael Bennet. The new senator endured a strong primary and a narrow general election, so I guess, if that's your sole basis for the decision, it all worked out.

But if Udall jumped, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez would pick his replacement. That would kick the Democrats down to 54 Senate seats, which boost overall GOP optimism for winning the upper House in 2014. (They've got the candidates they want in West Virginia and South Dakota already.) The effect, for liberals, would be comparable to the effect of promoting Gov. Janet Napolitano to the cabinet in 2009 -- a decision that gave Arizona the glory of Gov. Jan Brewer.

Maybe Salazar is just doing his friend a solid and raising his profile. (Udall's one of three Democratic leaders on filibuster reform, so he could use it, possibly.) If he actually hasn't thought out what would happen to Udall's Senate seat, it reveals a strange cavalier approach to the Demorats' cental problem: The fact that everything croaks in the Senate. If Udall was confirmed tomorrow, then there wouldn't be 51 votes for filibuster reform. Surely the guy whose portfolio runs all over environmental policy knows what the filibuster is!

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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