Similarly, an amendment to kill the 2.3% tax on gross sales of medical devices passed decidedly -- 79-20. This tax was an increasingly unpopular aspect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a safe place for Democrats to moderate. It was no accident that implementation of most of the ACA behemoth was booted to 2014, past not just the 2010 mid-terms but the 2012 election as well. As battles heat up in some of the closer races, it's likely we'll see more bipartisan efforts to reverse or alter more aspects of the ACA. And if politicians are moderating on legislation already on the books, there's little chance they'll be eager to pass much of anything major going forward.
Mind you, neither of these are done deals. They were amendments to the Senate budget, which barely passed the easily Dem-dominated Senate, and they won't get much more than an eye-roll in the House. Still, they call them symbolic votes for a reason.
And Democrats need to send a powerful message to constituents. There are 21 Democrat-held seats up for election in 2014 to just 14 Republican -- alone a significant structural Republican advantage. Of the 14 Republican races, 13 are in states Romney carried (including two seats in South Carolina). Just Susan Collins (Maine) is running in a traditionally blue state. But as a three-termer and with solid moderate bona fides, that seat doesn't seem imperiled at the moment. Saxby Chambliss and Mike Johanns are retiring, leaving two open seats in reliably red Georgia and Nebraska.
Democrats face a tougher road. Of their 21 races, seven are in states Romney carried. Tim Johnson (South Dakota) just announced he won't run in 2014 and Jay Rockefeller (West Virginia) is also retiring, making two of those Romney states open races. The Democrats will have a total of five open races, though the three in Michigan, New Jersey and Iowa are probably safe. Still, open seats are tougher to defend.
No doubt, the Democrats would like to take back the House in 2014, a tall order in a normal mid-term. The president's party nearly always loses relative power in mid-terms, as the Democrats did in 2010 and the Republicans in 2006. What's more, the House nearly always goes the same direction as the Senate in mid-terms, and at the very least, the Democrats are structurally set up to lose more relative power. So in the time between now and the midterms, watch for more aisle-crossing and little new legislation -- a powerful boost for stocks.
This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.