Obama Needs More Senate Power Brokers to Win Agenda

When Lyndon Johnson served as Senate majority leader in the 1950s, he divided colleagues into two camps: “whales,” who could forge the deals to enact landmark legislation, and “minnows,” who would follow.

In the U.S. Senate today, there may be too many minnows and not enough whales. The lack of long-serving members with a history of putting together complex deals may impede some of Obama’s more ambitious proposals, even as Democrats near a 60- vote majority, according to several senators, including Orrin Hatch, who was first elected in 1976.

Two dozen new senators have taken office since the 2006 elections, a level of turnover not seen since the late-1970s. And illnesses have reduced the influence of powerful figures like Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, who was first elected to the Senate in 1962.