On a hot day in June 1815, standing atop a distant hill facing a red sea of British troops, Napoleon Bonaparte surveyed the military mass before him and realized Arthur Wellesley — the Duke of Wellington — was notably protecting his right flank with heavy amounts of cannon and artillery. Interpreting this to mean the Duke must be shielding a weak and vulnerable point, the Corsican determined he would launch an attack at exactly that spot, practicing his standard modus operandi of divide and conquer: hit your opponent where he is weak, force him to expend valuable reserves to protect the destabilized position therefore dividing his forces, and then aggressively press the middle to decimate a weakened center. Pointing to a farmhouse directly at the heart of this right periphery, Napoleon ordered his generals, “We’ll begin the attack there, at Hougoumont.”
As history would later dictate, this particular dwelling, Château d’Hougoumont, was held by a resolute British force that pushed back repeated advances from a superior-numbered French infantry. In a unique twist of events the strategy backfired on Napoleon: by sending waves of his men to take the Château, he stretched his troops thin and diluted the sum of his total force. This — combined with a late arrival of Blücher and his Prussian brigade — helped secure final defeat and eventual exile of the French Emperor. Despite its pivotal role in determining the battle’s outcome, Hougoumont stands as a subset of the larger conflict known as Waterloo.
As the 112th Congress convenes in Washington, the United States Senate stands as a modern-day Hougoumont, caught between a freshly minted conservative House of Representatives and a White House steadfastly holding to a Leftist ideology.
Legislation is meant to pass easier with much less parliamentary hassle in the People’s House, a simple majority is all that is needed for passage; conversely the Senate has a tradition of slow-going, debating the finer points of government policy and minutiae — one senator can hold up an entire bill single-handedly, and the filibuster serves as a counter-weight to the majority party, allowing the minority to force the party in power to garner 60 votes to end debate and bring a vote to the floor. At the top of the pyramid stands the White House, attempting to influence proposed law, hoping to have approved legislation it can sign into law and exterminate in congress ones the president wishes to avoid altogether.
Notwithstanding her devotion to all-things-bureaucratic, boundless energy to socialize anything that moves, and ubiquitous plastic smile, Nancy Pelosi has exited the stage far Left. In her absence, along with a presence of a solid Republican House majority, it is largely expected that a slew of conservative bills will emerge and pass the lower congressional chamber en masse. It is already viewed as a bold move that by weeks end Speaker Boehner will present a one-page bill to entirely repeal Obamacare — crown jewel of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate, not to mention the recipient of the highest number of ‘Likes’ on Obamacare’s Facebook page from members of the New York City Sanitation Union and Humanities Department at New Hampshire State University. But I digress.
Once this revocation of socialized medicine — along with other bills to curtail spending, prevent tax increases, and keep Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his band of merry men out of a United States courtroom — emanates from the House it will most assuredly meet stiff resistance in the Senate, abetted by some string-pulling from White House liaisons to keep such bills away from the president’s desk.
It will be in the Senate where the heavy debating and strategic fighting will take place; where a frustrated public will have to listen to the ‘Gentlewoman from California’ explain why an exploding deficit and threats of hyperinflation are not really a big deal and there is no reason to curtail government spending. Newly elected Senators supported by the growing Tea Party movement will face off with antiquities who have held their seats for time immemorial: will a conservative Rand Paul emerge victorious in a debate with the Leftist relic John Kerry? More voting Americans identify themselves as conservative now than in recent memory, will Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell use this to his advantage, or cut a deal with Senate Democrats? At what lengths, or depths, will Senators go to invoke a filibuster? If the Senate passes a bill and sends it to the White House, under what conditions will Obama sign it into law or further the debate by using his veto pen? Many issues lay just under the surface and are sure to explode in the upcoming session: extending the national debt ceiling, closing Guantanamo, bailing out bankrupt states and cities, addressing illegal immigration, reducing spending levels to previous rates in 2008 or 2006 to mention a few. All of the above and more will have their fate determined in the Senate. And finally, keep in mind how all this will influence the 2012 election.
A lot is out there and much will be on the table, the Senate will serve as the dividing line between Congressional Republicans and President Obama, and that is where the real battle will take place.