The Senate that convenes in a lame duck session on Nov. 15 could include three brand new senators. Whether those new faces are Democrat-friendly could complicate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s efforts to pass key bills.
Illinois, Delaware and West Virginia are electing senators to fill unexpired seats, and the winners could expect to be seated immediately or soon after the lame duck commences.
All three seats presently are held by Democrats. Losses in any of those states could further erode Reid’s 59-seat majority during the abbreviated session where Democrats are hoping to tackle issues such as the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.
With Democrats having struggled to get 60 votes to pass legislation over Republican filibusters, the loss of any more seats would figure to make the job that much more challenging.
After a National Press Club forum on Thursday, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who heads his party’s Senate campaign arm, acknowledged the lame duck math could be altered on Election Day.
In Illinois, voters are facing a court-mandated special election to fill the remaining weeks of the 111th Congress. They are also electing a senator for the following six-year term.
In both cases, campaign handicappers are projecting a relatively close contest between Democrat state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Rep. Mark Kirk.
Polls suggest the Delaware seat should remain with the Democrats, with Chris Coons running ahead of Republican Tea Party insurgent Christine O’Donnell.
But the Senate race in West Virginia between Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin and Republican businessman John Raese has tightened, with analyst Charlie Cook today declaring it a tossup.