A lot of attention is being paid to November's election because control of the Senate could switch from Democratic to Republican. Some races that seemed safe for Republican incumbents, or were leaning Republican, have now become less certain and more competitive, e.g. Kansas and North Carolina. However, even if Republicans pick up the needed six seats to gain control, does it matter in terms of energy policy? I think that the answer is "not much."

Even though Republicans have been in the minority, they have been able to block most of Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidBill O'Reilly: Politics helped kill Kate Steinle, Zarate just pulled the trigger Tax reform is nightmare Déjà vu for Puerto Rico Ex-Obama and Reid staffers: McConnell would pretend to be busy to avoid meeting with Obama MORE's (D-Nev.) legislative agenda, whatever it is. As the minority party, the Democrats would be able to use similar tactics to prevent Republicans from passing much of their energy agenda or acting on energy legislation passed by the House.

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The major energy issues are Keystone XL, removing the prohibition on crude oil exports, accelerating the construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facilities, accelerating exploration and production on federal lands, subsidies for renewable energy projects, preventing Environmental Protection Agency anti-coal regulations, securing electric power generation, and clean energy and climate change.

President Obama has delayed action on the Keystone pipeline for political reasons, since the case for approving it on both energy and environmental grounds is overwhelming. The most likely reason for slow-walking approval is that he does not want to offend environmental voters. He needs them and other liberal Democrats to turn out in large numbers to help save the most vulnerable Democratic senators. After the election and before the presidential campaigning really gets underway, he could well give his approval. If he didn't, a Republican Senate could be challenged to pass legislation that would not encounter a filibuster or face a presidential veto. And there is no way that the Senate could muster enough votes for an override.

The same is probably true for legislation on LNG exports, removing the constraints on crude oil imports and expanding exploration on federal lands. Any Republican energy legislation that the White House or Senate Democrats opposed would face the same tactics from Democrats as used by Republicans.

Sixty votes are the key and it is hard to foresee a situation where the Senate announces "Kumbaya," locks arms and finally starts doing the public's business. The dysfunction caused by extreme polarization is not likely to change any time soon. Members of both the House and Senate have long forgotten the wise counsel of Henry Clay: "Politics is not about ideology or political purity. It is about governing. If you can't compromise, you can't govern."

The word "compromise" in Congress has become an epithet, when it should mean finding common ground without abandoning principle. The enmity between Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) has become so strong that they seem unable to reach out to each other for the country's good. A few months ago, The Washington Post wrote about the Senate's dysfunction. According to Paul Kane, "The Senate went three months this spring without voting on a single legislative amendment, the nitty-gritty kind of work usually at the heart of congressional lawmaking. ... The big issues have been sidelined by political and procedural battles and an intensely personal war between the leadership offices." The article quoted several senators who essentially said that there is no way to fix the problem between two men whose mutual distrust is so intense.

It would be easy to conclude that the current situation is simply election-year politics with each party trying to bolster its election prospects while damaging those of the opposition. However, that is not the case. The Bipartisan Policy Center issued a report this summer, Governing in a Polarized America, by a committee that included former senators. It documented the seriousness of the situation in the Senate and the reasons why it is unlikely to change anytime soon.

The best hope for change would come from both Reid and McConnell stepping down from their leadership positions.

That may seem radical, but when a company's leadership performs so poorly, its board — 98 senators in this case — brings in new leadership. That is what is required to advance the process of finding common ground.

With new leadership, the Senate and House should be able to reach out to the president with a bipartisan agenda that goes beyond energy to include budget, tax, immigration reform and an energy agenda that builds on the success of the recent energy renaissance.

If Sens. Reid and McConnell simply switch positions, gridlock will just be another color.

O'Keefe is CEO of the George Marshall Institute and president of Solutions Consulting, Inc.