Ezra Klein on the president’s first ten months:
Obama has 60 Democratic seats in the Senate. His recent predecessors haven’t enjoyed majorities nearly as large. That’s the difference between him and Clinton, or him and Bush. Bush controlled 55 at his peak, and Clinton, who still had Dixiecrats in his caucus, had 57. Obama’s ambitions can be greater because his majority is larger. And it’s important to be clear about that.
I would argue, however, that Bush and Clinton didn’t face nearly the minority-party obstructionism and general insanity that President Obama has so far. As for George W. Bush, we all know that his early “accomplishments” (insofar as he got what he wanted) were the consequence of exploiting the fears and shell-shock of 9/11. Whether a result of the attacks or the nature of the party, Bush enjoyed a compliant Democratic Party for a couple of years there. Despite the universally agreed-upon economic crisis, President Obama has enjoyed no such support from Republicans.
And while the Democratic Party itself has always been a broad coalition stretching from the center-right to the far left — complete with Dixiecrats or today’s Lieberdems — President Obama has so far been more successful than Clinton in holding together the caucus.
So yes, President Obama has 60. But it’s not an automatic rubber stamp 60.