Election 2014

What a GOP Victory in the Senate Might Mean



With less than a week until election day, most election models continue to favor Republicans: They are favorites to pick up at least a few seats in the House and to win majority control of the Senate.

The big question, then, is what happens next. If Republicans win control of both chambers of Congress, what will they do? To a great extent, that question can be broken down into two parts: What will Republicans, who are unified mostly by opposition to Obama, agree to do? And what can Republicans do, given that Senate Democrats will still retain the ability to stymie legislation via the filibuster, and that Obama will still be president, with veto power over any legislation that succeeds in making it to his desk.

The question of agreement is one that Republicans have largely avoided in recent years (recent efforts to find positive priorities that unify the party have been so vague as to be meaningless) as opposition to the president has become the priority.

But as Molly Ball reports at The Atlantic, there are certainly Republicans who would like to take the opportunity, should it arise, to be more proactive:

…With control of both houses of Congress, Republicans would be on the hook for Congress's actions. They alone would get the blame if Congress remained dysfunctional—and they alone could claim credit if Congress actually passed bills with popular support. If Republicans passed such moderate, constructive legislation, Obama would be hard pressed to simply veto everything they put on his desk.

"The way I describe it is, we're putting the guardrails on the Obama administration's last two years," Senator Rob Portman told me in a recent interview, explaining how he envisions a Republican-controlled Senate proceeding. Needing GOP approval for nominees, Obama would have to appoint moderates to judicial and executive positions, he said. But Portman, a fiscally focused Ohio Republican who is generally conservative but believes in bipartisan compromise, sees several areas of potential cooperation with the administration. He mentioned tax reform, a "grand bargain" on the budget, an energy bill—perhaps something that combines Keystone XL pipeline approval with reductions in carbon emissions—and new free-trade agreements, which Obama has supported but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has blocked. Portman, who voted against the bipartisan immigration-reform bill that passed the Senate last year, also believes a Republican-led immigration-reform bill could pass the House and Senate and potentially be approved by Obama.

The question here is whether the rest of the party (or enough of it) would be on board with this approach. As Ball writes:

Even if Republican leaders want this to happen, the biggest obstacle will be Republicans themselves—chiefly the restive conservatives in the House, who have prevented consideration of bipartisan legislation approved by the Senate on issues like immigration and who have often prevented the party from doing what's in its own political interest (see: government shutdown). McConnell's Senate majority will include pragmatists like Portman—but also ideologues like Ted Cruz. Portman acknowledged this obstacle when I spoke to him. "We as Republicans have a real challenge to get the diversity of our ranks to work together," he said.

But even if Republicans can come together, there's still the matter of the other party. Democrats might lose the majority in the Senate, but they will retain significant ability to block legislation from even coming to the president's desk. And while Republicans might get around that by cutting deals or through the use of reconciliation, which allows for certain limited types of spending bills to move through the Senate on a simple majority vote, Obama's veto power will remain in force. Over at National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru walks through various scenarios for deal cutting and pushing legislation through the process, and concludes that, while some business-friendly deals might be possible, there are real limits on what a GOP Congress will be able to do in the next two years.

Republicans, with nominal control of the Senate, will not be able to "prove they can govern" because they will not in fact be able to govern. They can, however, work to prove that they have an attractive governing agenda, advancing legislation to reform federal policies on taxes, energy, health care, and higher education in ways that raise Americans' standard of living. Most of that legislation would fall victim to filibusters, and some of it to vetoes. Offering and fighting for it would nonetheless lay the groundwork for a successful 2016 campaign, ideally followed by the enactment of much of it.

This is basically right: It's not an opportunity to legislate so much as an opportunity to prepare to legislate. In some ways, Republicans, should they win, will be in a similar situation as Democrats were following the 2006 midterm. And during that time, Democrats teed up a variety of big-ticket issues, from the stimulus to the health care law, that would result in major legislative victories following the 2008 presidential election.

Republicans are badly in need of a brand revamp right now, and some sense of direction, post-Obama. As Nick Gillespie noted earlier today, there are a variety of ideas and policies and general attitude shifts that the party could begin to adopt to begin that process, and two years of Senate control would provide an opportunity to do so. The first item on the party's agenda, in other words, should be to have one.

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  1. Prediction – Stupid Party gonna Stupid

    You heard it here first.

    1. You beat me to it.

      The Republicans biggest problem is that the majority of them don’t actually disagree with anything that Obama has done. they disagree with who did it.

      That doesn’t exactly leave them any real room for any kind of broad legislative vision meaning the odds that they will be able to successfully accomplish anything, even just setting the groundwork for a 2016 legislative agenda are basically 0.

      I fear we are more likely to see an organized attempt to legislatively overturn Roe v Wade and stem the tide of gay marriage than anything smart or beneficial.

      1. EVen if they had an agenda, how would they pass it? They need the White House too. And even if all of the pols secretly love and admire, their supporters certainly don’t. So I seriously doubt they will be carrying on the great Obama agenda unless they just have a suicide wish, which they might granted.

    2. Ok, you’re first, but really Almanian, that’s not a very bold prediction, (;

  2. Senate Democrats will still retain the ability to stymie legislation via the filibuster

    I thought Harry Reid got rid of this when he went nuculer?

  3. I don’t care just as long as I never have to see Bruce Braley’s shit eating grin again.

    1. oh boy that would be nice. he was my rep until this year when i moved to WI

  4. And nothing else happened.

    Oh wait, wrong thread. … Right?

  5. You gots to luv that image of the Orange One smooching up with Obama. Jersey Fats has to have a jealous.

  6. And nothing else happened…

  7. What a GOP Victory in the Senate Might Mean

    Coulter’s Great Libertarian Purge will finally be able to begin?

  8. who have often prevented the party from doing what’s in its own political interest (see: government shutdown).

    And that’s where I stop reading and you should have. Suderman and Welch are idiots who should really avoid giving political advice. If they were remotely right about The Shutdown, we wouldn’t be talking about the GOP taking the Senate.

    1. Exactly. And if they are not willing to shut down the government, what are they supposed to do? Sudderman and Welch are just trolling. If the Republicans shut down the government, they whine about how stupid and destructive the Republicans are being. If they don’t and give Obama what he wants, then the Republicans are just sellouts who secretly love Obama. It is fucking idiotic.

    2. You guys do know that quote is from Molly Ball of The Atlantic, right?

      1. One that Welch and Suderman parrot ad verbatim in spite of every bit of real-world data.

  9. They won’t do shit. Maybe makes some noise about gay marriage or Ebola infected Mexicans to keep the trolls happy, but nothing else.

    1. Well they will suspend the debt ceiling for another 6 months at a time, and they will also re-authorize the exim bank for another 2 years.

  10. Republicans, with nominal control of the Senate, will not be able to “prove they can govern” because they will not in fact be able to govern.

    I guess if your definition of “govern” is “cram shit through that only half of the country supports” then yeah, they might not be able to do that. Remember a few weeks ago when we thought that might not be such a good thing to do anyway?

    I am not buying this pitch that Republicans need to spend the next two years making their pitch for how awesome they would be if ONLY they had a Republican president. Nosiree, I am not. Guess what, Republicans? If you guys look to maintain a solid lock on the house and senate in 2016, I just might vote for Hillary just to keep you f*cks in check? Whaddaya think of that?

    1. I say have fun losing your gun rights and first amendment rights after Hillary replaces Scalia and Thomas on the Supreme Court.

      What will you think of that?

      1. I think that the republican-controlled senate confirming replacements for Scalia and Thomas that don’t support 1A and 2A is unlikely.

        1. Yeah because a den nominee would never lie about that and the media would never browbeat a couple Rhinos into supporting them.

          Are you retarded?

        2. What happens when the GOP loses the Senate in 2018?

          Voting for gridlock is tricky business.

    2. But the GOP is dangerous and unscrupulous! I saw a video just the other day that suggested they may use a sneaky tactic called RECONCILIATION!

    3. You will get what you deserve.

    4. 2016 is going to be a tough map for the GOP. Lots of seats to defend six years after the Tea Party triumph. Toomey and Kirk are almost certainly dead ducks.

  11. Doesn’t controlling Congress mean you get to set the budget? Maybe I’m wrong, but this sounds to me like it might have a little bit of leverage in it. My guess is that you might be able to do a little more to get somebody’s attention if you have the option of setting their budget for next year to a whopping $1.

    1. Technically it means that, but first you have to check with the media to make sure that they won’t make you look like meanies.

    2. Controlling just the House means you get Veto Power over the budget. But if you use it, you can forget about getting invited to any of the good cocktail parties. So it’s a balancing act, you see?

  12. Republicans are badly in need of a brand revamp right now, and some sense of direction, post-Obama. As Nick Gillespie noted earlier today, there are a variety of ideas and policies and general attitude shifts that the party could begin to adopt to begin that process, and two years of Senate control would provide an opportunity to do so.

    True. Therefore the Republicans will declare a social issues extravaganza introducing legislation on voter ID, abortion, traditional marriage, and everything else they can think of, thereby snatching defeat from the hands of victory.

  13. Why in the world would the GOP reinstate the filibuster after the Senate Dems revoked it this year? Let the Dems live under their own rules for a couple of years.

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