The Two Women Who Control the Senate

National Journal: Harry Reid may hold the reins of power, but his legislation isn’t likely to go anywhere without Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins.

nj2.jpgSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid became one of the most powerful leaders in the chamber's history when he decided to invoke the nuclear option to change the Senate's rules for the first time in U.S. history last November. He controls the Senate with an iron fist, deciding which bills will come to the floor, whether the minority will be allowed to attach any amendments (usually, no) and pushing through executive branch and judicial nominations with a simple majority vote.

But for all the talk of the way this man has shaped the Senate, there's little he can accomplish without two women.

Under Senate rules, Reid still needs 60 votes to move legislation or other nominations, and he only has 55 in his own conference, including the two independents who caucus with the Democratic party. Whatever Reid decides to bring to the floor, it isn't going anywhere without at least five Republicans on board. More often than not, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, are on that list, while the other slots are filled by a rotating cast of a dozen or so other Republicans. Without Murkowski and Collins, chances for passage of many bills is slim, at best.

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