As much fun as it was to run circles around then Majority Leader Bill Frist, I knew his retirement was bad news for the Democrats whether they won or lost his seat in 2006. Because Sen. Mitch McConnell, who is a million times smarter about Senate rules and tactics than Frist, was poised to assume the role of GOP Senate leader. Sure enough, despite having 40-43 Senators to call from in 2009-10 (and 49 in 2007-09, McConnell was able to keep his troops in rank to impose filibusters at a record setting rate since he has been in charge.
And while this obstructionism has had some victories--several judicial nominees will never get voted on, the federal budget failed, the DREAM Act, etc.--the larger measures still went through the Senate. Heath Care Reform, the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, the Food Safety Bill, the Financial Reform Bill, the Child Nutrition Bill, the START II treaty, along with several nominees passed.
Why did this happen, especially in the lame duck session? Two reasons. First, Harry Reid was also pretty good at keeping his troops together for the most part and he had 60-51 of them during the same period. Second, the "FU caucus" formed in the Lame Duck this year. People like Bob Bennett and Lisa Murkowski, who are very conservative, but were primaried from the right and did not receive much help from McConnell, were pissed at him. Moreover, these retiring (or in the case of Murkowski, re-elected) GOP senators did not trust the new GOP senators coming into Congress in January and actually liked some of the Democrats policies to a certain degree.
The more important result from this relentless obstruction from McConnell, and his taunting of Democrats, was the fact that every Democrat who will be Senotors in the 112th Congress in January wrote a letter to Sen. Reid demanding that the filibuster rules be reformed. We won't know what the change will be until it passes in January, but we do know that Democrats are united in their dislike of McConnell and his antics. I believe McConnell's sinking of the Federal Budget bill was the last straw for some of the more senior Democratic Senators who still believe that the Senate is the "World's Greatest Dillibrative Body." If the reform is particularly pro-majority, we could see more legislation, nominees and treaties pass the Senate in the 112th Congress with 53 Members in the Democratic Caucus than in the 111th with 60 Members in the Democratic Caucus. January just got a whole lot more interesting.