Democrats could face culture shock

If the Senate goes Republican on Tuesday, a majority of Democrats will get their first taste of life in the minority.

Only 17 Democrats who could serve in the next Senate were in office eight years ago, the last time the GOP held the levers of power.

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With Republicans favored on Election Day, the new class of Democrats might be in for a rude awakening come January, when the perks of the majority could be stripped away.

"It will be a shock for Democrats to move into the minority," said Jim Manley, a former spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe Memo: Trump pulls off a stone-cold stunner The Memo: Ending DACA a risky move for Trump Manchin pressed from both sides in reelection fight MORE (D-Nev.).

The indignities of serving under the opposing party are legion.

The first blow is the loss of committee chairmanships, which senators use to draft legislation, conduct oversight and draw attention to pet causes.

Democrats would be demoted to the ranking members of committees and forced to downsize by letting go of staffers who aren’t wanted on the new majority’s payroll.

Perhaps worst of all, some Democrats would have to pack up their things as Republicans dole out the spoils of office space.

“That’s a major issue for many senior members,” said Bill Hoagland, a former Republican budget staffer and now senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Still, it’s better to be in the minority in the Senate than in House, where the floor is tightly controlled and rank-and-file members can often do little more than raise their voice in protest during floor speeches.

The Senate, in contrast, runs on consensus, giving individual senators the power to hold up legislation, block nominees, and occasionally hold up business with an old-fashioned talking filibuster.

“To get attention, [Democrats] will have to spend more time on the floor,” said Steve Smith, a political science professor at Washington University in St. Louis. “This isn’t much fun.”

Democrats could have revenge on their minds, as they have complained bitterly during the Obama presidency that Republicans have abused the power of the filibuster for partisan ends.

While Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate passes 0B defense bill Overnight Health Care: New GOP ObamaCare repeal bill gains momentum Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea MORE (R-Ky.), the heir apparent to the top job, would have new procedural weapons at his disposal in the majority, Democrats are likely to insist on 60 votes for most pieces of legislation, ensuring that work on a single bill eats up days of floor time.

Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University, said procedural moves won’t carry McConnell very far “because there’s no way to get to 60 votes.”

“There’s no light and the tunnel is very long,” he said. 

Smith said the one constant in the Senate if power flips would be the deep divide between the parties.

“The partisanship and gridlock will continue, but with a change in party control the nuances of their everyday political rhetoric will change,” Smith said. 

Hoagland offered a more optimistic take, and said Democrats might be shocked to find that GOP leaders are more than willing to listen to their ideas and give them a hand in legislating.

He predicted GOP leaders in the Senate would open up the floor process, giving some newer Democratic members a chance to have more input.

“Senate Democrats who haven’t had a chance to participate in the process and haven’t had that open debate may be a little bit in shock,” he said. 

Hoagland said he expects that a Republican Congress would push forward on approving a budget, giving newer Senate Democrats a chance to participate in a full-fledged vote-a-rama, a budget conference and even the reconciliation process. 

Smith said Democratic leaders would likely try to present a united front against the GOP agenda, but might struggle to keep some moderate members from breaking ranks, particularly the ones who are up for reelection in 2016.

“Democrats will try to keep their party disciplined in their opposition to the Republicans, but they will be disappointed from time to time that a handful of Democrats are willing to play ball with the Republicans, who will be dealing with them to acquire votes for cloture,” Smith said.  

And while Republicans have condemned many of Reid’s tactics in the minority, comparing them to a dictatorship, they might find themselves resorting to the same tools to thwart legislative mischief.

“[Democrats] will spend a considerable amount of time fashioning floor amendments to force Republicans to vote on their agenda, and they will be frustrated when Republicans fill the amendment tree and otherwise block their efforts to do so," Smith said. 

But while life in the minority would bring frustration, Democrats could take comfort in the fact that, for them, it might not last long.

In 2016, 24 Republican senators are up for reelection, while only 10 Democrats are  — a disparity that most political handicappers say will be difficult, if not impossible, for the GOP to overcome. 

“The feeling for Democrats is, suck it up for two years and then come roaring back,” Baker said. 

Senate Democrats who served in the minority in 2006 and could return for the 114th Congress: 

1.      Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTrump riles Dems with pick for powerful EPA job Pelosi's chief of staff stepping down Time is now to address infrastructure needs MORE, California

2.      Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenate energy bill is misguided gift to Trump’s dirty fossil fuel agenda Help states solve their housing problems with the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act Time to pass the U.S. OUTDOOR Act to support American jobs and consumers MORE, Washington

3.      Thomas Carper, Delaware

4.      Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill MORE, Illinois

5.      Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDems call for action against Cassidy-Graham ObamaCare repeal Feinstein pushes back on Trump’s N. Korea policy Feinstein on reelection bid: ‘We will see’ MORE, California

6.      Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuCNN producer on new O'Keefe video: Voters are 'stupid,' Trump is 'crazy' CNN's Van Jones: O'Keefe Russia 'nothingburger' video 'a hoax' Trump posts O'Keefe videos on Instagram MORE, Louisiana (close race)

7.      Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Live coverage: Sanders rolls out single-payer bill MORE, Vermont

8.      Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Poll finds little support for Menendez reelection Judge tells Menendez lawyer to 'shut up' MORE, New Jersey

9.      Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiGore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere Bipartisan friendship is a civil solution to political dysfunction Dems press for paycheck fairness bill on Equal Pay Day MORE, Maryland

10.     Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayWeek ahead: Senators near deal to stabilize ObamaCare markets Policymaking commission offers a glimmer of hope in hyper-partisan Washington Dems call on DeVos to work with CFPB to protect student borrowers MORE, Washington

11.     Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDem asks airlines to cap airfares ahead of Hurricane Maria Trump encourages Rick Scott to run for Senate Overnight Regulation: House moves to block methane rule | Senators wrestle with allowing driverless trucks | EPA delays toxic waste rule MORE, Florida

12.     Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE, Arkansas (close race)

13.     Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Raymond ReedOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill This week: Senate wrapping up defense bill after amendment fight MORE, Rhode Island

14.     Harry Reid, Nevada

15.     Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill This week: Senate wrapping up defense bill after amendment fight Cuomo warns Dems against cutting DACA deal with Trump MORE, New York

16.     Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowMich. Senate candidate opts for House run instead Report: GOP donors can't get in touch with Kid Rock Kid Rock denies press credentials to Detroit paper MORE, Michigan

17.     Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Finance to hold hearing on ObamaCare repeal bill MORE, Oregon