Stamatakis: What’s baking in the Senate

By Nick Stamatakis

Well, the holiday season is finally here. That means one thing — cookies.

From… Well, the holiday season is finally here. That means one thing — cookies.

From snickerdoodles to spritzgebäcks, the cookies of the season fill our plates and stomachs as finals lurch menacingly closer, providing comfort and warmth to everybody.

But the holiday season means something else, too — preparation for the next year’s Senate!

I must admit I am more excited about the latter than the former, but, in a nod to the holiday spirit and the accompanying spirit of inclusion, I wanted to write a column about both subjects.

So for cookie lovers, I present a primer to understanding the nuances of your cookies and the roles they play in your daily life.

And for Senate lovers, I present a primer to understanding the dynamics in play for next year by comparing the senate leadership to cookies.

Talk about experimental writing.

Jim DeMint (R–South Carolina) — Shortbread

Shortbread cookies are simple. They are nothing more than flour, sugar and a ton of butter. What can go wrong with such basic ingredients? Well, the fact is that shortbread cookies can often suck. They crumble apart. They aren’t particularly sweet. And all that butter turns out to be fattening.

So too is Republican Tea-Party sweetheart Jim DeMint. The South Carolinian will likely play a huge role next year with his simple mantra of cutting spending and eliminating earmarks. But while this seems like a good idea, he won’t touch the big structural deficit creators — Medicare, Medicaid and defense spending — and cutting discretionary transportation and education funding won’t make much of a difference in the budget. So just like a shortbread cookie, he will prove to be a disappointment, but sadly without as much butter.

Mitch McConnell (R–Kentucky) — Turtles

Turtle cookies aren’t really cookies, but just a clump of pecans, brown sugar, vanilla, butter and chocolate. Their construction seems like a textbook logic error — wildly putting together stuff you like doesn’t make the best cookie. They fall apart in your hands, and lack a certain structural integrity.

Mitch McConnell himself totally looks like a turtle, but the similarities continue beyond that. To Republican voters, he seems great: ties to the business community, opposition to Obama and rhetorical opposition to big government. But like his doppelganger cookie, his convictions often aren’t that impressive.  According to former President Bush’s recently published memoir, McConnell, days after publicly lambasting Democrats for politicizing the Iraq war, privately met with Bush in 2006 asking for him to withdrawal troops specifically to improve the Republicans’ reelection prospects. And McConnell’s opposition to Sen. DeMint’s admittedly symbolic earmark ban doesn’t exactly fortify his self-created small government image.

Harry Reid (D-Nevada) — Plain

Plain cookies. They technically serve as the bedrock for all cookies, but who really likes flour, sugar and some cooking oil plain? I’d argue it would only be a minority — after all, few see a plate of cookies and go, “Wow, I really hope they are plain.” Actually, Harry Reid might.

As a Congress insider, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid is actually somewhat effective. In public, however, Reid has the enthusiasm of a wet mop. Some Republicans, possibly McConnell, even silently hoped he would win, knowing full well that a more charismatic leader would have made opposing the Obama agenda more difficult. His reelection left many Democrats saying the same thing most kids say when faced with a plate of cold, plain cookies: “Oh. That’ll do, I guess.”

Ben Nelson (D–Nebraska)/Joe Lieberman (I–Connecticut)/Joe Manchin (D–West Virginia) — Anything your eccentric aunt bakes

Family means everything. So when that aunt bakes some weird fruit-based experimental cookie, you just kind of eat it and say it’s good. You’d rather not make enemies with your family if you don’t have to, but that doesn’t make trying to eat that cranberry chili-powder biscuit-thing any better.

These three guys are really more like that aunt than her cookies actually. They are all comparatively conservative, will all face tough election battles eventually and will all do stuff that many Democrats won’t like. But without these three, the body would be split 50-50, so Democratic leadership will need to employ some form of appeasement to keep them happy.

Joe Biden – Weird Hard Candy

This is the weird, nameless hard candy that somehow finds its way into millions of American’s pockets. But wait, I thought this was supposed to be about cookies?

Joe Biden, as vice president, is technically the president of the senate, and as such, can break 50-50 ties. But with the filibuster making actual yea and nay votes ever rarer, Joe Biden today is just about as relevant as hard candy. Besides, I guarantee he has tons of the stuff in his pockets right now.

E-mail Nick at [email protected]