The three members of Congress who resigned the week of December 4th is the largest number of resignations in a single week since the Civil War.

52% of Americans (66% of Democrats and 37% of Republicans) say that compared to recent Congresses, this Congress has accomplished less than recent Congresses. 8% (17% of Republicans and 3% of Democrats) say it has accomplished more and 33% say it has accomplished about the same amount.

56% say that this lack of accomplishment should be blamed on the Republicans leaders and 16% say it is the fault of Democratic leaders.

The Congress as a whole remains in a state of substantial disapproval by the folks who elected them and there seems little prospect for that changing any time soon. Going back at least ten years it is not possible to find a time when approval of Congress exceeded disapproval.

  Approve Disapprove
Reuters/Ipsos 12/5/17 20% 70%
Quinnipiac 12/4/17 12% 80%
Reuters/Ipsos 11/28/17 19% 69%
Reuters/Ipsos 10/31/17 22% 69%
Reuters/Ipsos 9/26/17 20% 69%
Monmouth 9/19/17 15% 73%
Fox News 8/29/17 15% 74%
Quinnipiac 8/23/17 10% 83%
CBS News 8/6/17 19% 73%
CNN/ORC 4/25/17 22% 75%
Quinnipiac 3/6/17 18% 20%
NBC/WSJ 2/22/17 29% 60%

Women are stepping forward to run for Congress in unprecedented numbers.
As of the end of the first week in December, 354 women have announced they are running for the House (291 Democrats and 63 Republicans) and 38 women are running for the Senate (25 Democrats and 13 Republicans). [NYTimes, 12/5/17]

[WW uses the Cook Political Report for the House chart below.]

The House of Representatives

  • Democrats 195
  • Republicans 240
  Democrats Republicans
Safe in 2017 174 178
Likely 11 24
Lean 6 21
Tossup 4 17

The Senate

The story of the moment in the Senate is the December 12th victory of Doug Jones over Ray Moore in the Alabama special election to fill the seat of Jeff Sessions who was appointed Attorney General of the United States.

Jones got 49.9% of the vote to Moore’s 48.4%. 1.7% of the votes cast were write-ins for one or more individuals. A total of 1,365,536 people voted. This represents a turnout of 41% of registered voters.

  Jones Moore
18-29 year olds (13% of voters) 60% 38%
65 and older (23% of voters) 40% 59%
Whites (66% of voters) 30% 68%
Black (29% of voters) 96% 4%
Men (49% of voters) 42% 56%
White men (35% of voters) 26% 72%
Black men (11% of voters) 93% 6%
Women (51% of voters) 57% 41%
White women (31% of voters) 34% 63%
Black women (17% of voters) 98% 2%

One of the profiles in courage that affected the result was the decision by Republican Senator Richard Shelby to make a public announcement through the media that he was not going to vote for Moore but rather would write in another Republican. You may recall that Shelby was originally elected to the Senate in 1986 as a Democrat and switched to the Republican Party in 1994.

Peter Hart shared the following the day after the Jones victory:

Thoughts about last night.

Last night was a good night for democracy. The victory speech by Doug Jones was exemplary in so many ways. It helped remind us about what is best about people in public life. He was genuine; he did not trash his opponent; he was grateful and proud of his supporters and generous in his praise and thanks to his team. But above it all, he achieved what candidates often forget to do–he used the platform to help define what this election meant in a larger term. He signaled out the importance of the CHIP program.

This was not an excoriation of the tax advantages for the special interests, but a call to the best of us in a positive way. In the end, the CHIP program will end up being saved because of Jones. As we know, elections have consequences and special elections have special consequences. This was a large and loud message by Jones that took us past the tawdriness of Roy Moore and inspired us to the best in us and in the basic good of the United States of America.

For the same reason, DACA is going to be saved—it is about the basic fairness. This is not a bargaining chip for the Republicans; but this is about the respect for the Constitution and the basic character of the country.

Last night was about a candidate who provided a light about the way to move forward.

Demise of the Filibuster

In 1917 the first filibuster rule (Rule 22) was adopted in the United States Senate, determining that debate could be ended on anything with a two-thirds vote.

The first major change to Rule 22 came in 1975 when the filibuster rule was reduced from 66 to 60 votes in an effort led by then Senator Walter F. Mondale.

The beginning of the end of the filibuster began in 2013 when Democrats, then in control in the Senate, decided to reduce the threshold for confirming executive branch nominees and judicial nominees (excepting Supreme Court nominees) from 60 to 51 votes. The rule remained intact as it relates to debate on legislative matters.

The use of the filibuster rule as it relates to Supreme Court nominees was ended by the Republican majority in 2017 with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch.

How long might it before the last leg of Rule 22 goes by the wayside?

Right along with the diminution of Rule 22, Senator Chuck Grassley, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has at least for now decided not to honor the “blue slip process” for current appellate or district court nominees. The blue slip process is the device by which a Senator can essentially stop a nomination from going forward for a district court judge in his or her state and an appellate court judge for the circuit covering his or her state.

The “blue slip process” is a Senate tradition not a rule. Historically, Judiciary Committee Chairs have enforced it rigorously for district court nominations but been have been more flexible for circuit court nominations. So Grassley’s position is not unprecedented.

[WW used a combination of the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections to create the Senate chart below.]

Phil Bredesen, the twice elected Democratic governor of Tennessee, has announced he will run for the seat being vacated by Bob Corker. Bredesen was last in public office in 2011. At least for now, this moves that seat into toss-up.

This chart reflects the situation after the swearing in of Doug Jones which will not occur until January 2018.

  • Republicans 51
  • Democrats 47
  • Independents 2
  Democrats Republicans
Seats not up in 2018 23 42
Safe in 2018 12 5
Likely 7
Lean 3

Tossup 3