What Should We Expect From A Republican Senate?

 

It looks like the GOP will take control of the Senate. That’s a good thing. However, based on a number of conversations I have had over the past few weeks with conservative activists, I think a large segment of the Republican base is going to find the next two years deeply disappointing.

Even if Republicans win every senate race in play, they will not the have the supermajority required to either break a democratic filibuster or override President Obama’s inevitable vetoes. Let’s face it: Republican control of the Senate is unlikely to result in the repeal of Obamacare, entitlement reform, or securing our borders. Absent a Damascene conversion on the part of the President, substantial conservative policy making its way into law is simply not in the cards. So what can conservatives reasonably expect from a GOP Senate over the next two years?

Well, there are two main areas where GOP Senate can make a real positive difference over the next two years: 1) stopping Obama from causing further harm to the country; and 2) positioning the Party advantageously for the crucially important election of 2016.

The last six years under Obama have been disastrous for our country and the first responsibility for any Republican Senate must be to thwart Obama’s efforts to use the remainder of his time in office to continue his transformation of the United States into a progressive utopia. Since 2008, the House of Representatives has done an excellent job in preventing Obama from advancing his agenda legislatively, but — as the president is fond of saying — he still has his phone and his pen and the power he retains to act administratively and through appointments is considerable.

While Republican control of senatorial oversight committees will make things less pleasant for the administration, it is primarily in the area of presidential appointments where a Republican Senate can make a real difference. Democrats controlled the Senate for the entirety of Obama’s presidency and, as a result, Obama has had a remarkably free hand in appointing progressive ideologues to positions in both the executive branch and the federal judiciary; particularly since Majority Leader Reid invoked the “nuclear option,” removing the ability of the minority to filibuster all  but a few presidential appointments.

The effect the Obama administration has already had on the federal judiciary has been profound and will be enduring. There are currently 874 statutorily authorized Article III federal judgeships. To date, 280 of Obama’s nominations to the federal judiciary have been confirmed by the Senate. Obama’s judicial appointments have tended to be progressive and relatively young, and the fact that they enjoy life-tenure makes it likely that the federal judiciary will tilt leftward for a generation. Not willing to content himself with having appointed a third of the federal judiciary, Obama is attempting a full blown-court packing program, with an additional 90 or so judicial nominations currently pending before the Senate. If these nominees are confirmed, it would mean more than 4 in 10 currently serving federal judges will have been appointed by Obama.

Considering the importance of the federal judiciary, I would be almost inclined to consider a GOP Senate a success if it achieved nothing else beyond blocking additional judicial appointments by Obama. Happily, I don’t think it will be necessary to define success so narrowly: control of the Senate will not only enable the GOP to block Obama’s efforts to pack the federal court system with left-leaning jurists, it could assist the Party in positioning itself for a strong showing in 2016.

Though we haven’t made it through the midterms yet, it’s never is too early to start thinking about 2016. For structural reasons, the GOP will have an uphill fight retaining control of the Senate in 2016. Republicans will be defending more than twice the number of Senate seats than the Democrats, many of which were initially picked up in the Republican wave year of 2010. Fortunately, Republicans will be able to use their majority over the next two years to set the agenda in the Senate. This will allow them to set a positive platform for governance and offer several promising GOP senators with presidential aspirations to demonstrate their policy chops. Controlling the agenda of the Senate will also give Republicans the ability to force Democratic senators facing reelection to take tough votes on contentious policy matters where public opinion favors the GOP.

Well, what do you think? What are your expectations for the next two years? What would it take for you to consider a GOP-controlled Senate a success?

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  1. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    Given the reality that the Republicans won’t have 60 votes, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head as far as the major advantage of a Republican senate.  The other advantage is in forcing Obama to veto possibly popular legislation, though I’m not sure how important this will be given a hostile (to Republicans) press.

    • #1
  2. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    I don’t think a Republican-controlled Senate is so much about rolling back the damage Obama has done between 2015 and 2016 as it is to develop the foundation to win the Presidency in 2016 and roll it back between 2017 and 2020.

    A Republican legislature can do this by passing popular legislation for Obama to veto. Stuff like:

    • Rational Health Insurance Reform to Preserve the Health of America’s Children Act(repeal the most onerous aspects of the Unaffordable Care Act).
    • Preserving America’s Environment Through A Strong Economy Act (Keystone pipeline authorization).
    • Restoring the Presumption of Innocence in Administrative Courts Act (put the burden of proof on the government to prove an individual or corporation violated regulatory law, and require the government to prove there was an intention to violate the regulation).

    And so forth.

    Always title the legislation in motherhood terms.  (After all, who can oppose children’s health or civil rights?)

    Seawriter

    • #2
  3. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    I agree that the two most important domestic issues on the table are : the repeal of the ACA and the authorization of Keystone. We have to stop the re-distribution of wealth in this country and focus upon creating it.

    • #3
  4. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    EThompson:I agree that the two most important domestic issues on the table are : the repeal of the ACA and the authorization of Keystone. We have to stop the re-distribution of wealth in this country and focus upon creating it.

    Much as we would like to see that in 2015-16 that is not happening.   But we can use 2015-16 to do that in the next President’s term.

    The most misbegotten piece of legislation prior to the ACA was the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  It was passed in a manner similar to what was used to pass the ACA.  It led to the Civil War.

    It was never repealed, however, despite the damage it created. On the other hand, it was rendered a dead letter due to subsequent legislation (including Constitutional Amendments).  Its provisions simply did not matter.

    I suspect the ACA will end up the same way.  It will never be repealed, but it will be superseded. Likely between 2017 and 2018.

    Seawriter

    • #4
  5. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    I agree. How could the ACA be superseded in a manner that doesn’t bankrupt the country?

    • #5
  6. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    I concur with the others -make the Democrats, especially the ones tied to Elizabeth Warren and Hilary Clinton, filibuster the “Mom and Apple Pie Act of 2015.”

    Find popular stuff and bring it to the floor and make the Democrats oppose it.

    • #6
  7. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    EThompson:I agree. How could the ACA be superseded in a manner that doesn’t bankrupt the country?

    First, introduce a bill defunding enforcement of the ACA.  Call it the Health-Care Savings Act. (Who can oppose cutting health care costs?) That can be done in reconciliation, so it cannot be filibustered.

    Next, pass a bill repealing the individual and corporate mandates.  Call it the Health-Care Freedom Act. (Are you really against freedom, Mr. Obama?  Well, you are Democrat, and they are the party that supported slavery.)  Again, since the mandates are taxes, only 50 votes are needed for cloture.

    Pass a law allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines. Call that the Health Care Choice Act.  (After all, even Democrats are Pro-Choice.  With some clever spinning, Republicans could make pro-choice low-information voters think the Democrats are trying to restrict abortion.)

    Pass a law removing the Federal requirements as to what health insurance has to include.

    And so forth.

    Seawriter

    • #7
  8. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Pass a law allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines. 

    This is the key point; remove monopolies and encourage competition.

    • #8
  9. calvincoolidg@gmail.com Inactive
    calvincoolidg@gmail.com
    @CalvinCoolidg

    I think everyone is forgetting that Harry Reid paved the way for the Republicans. The Nuclear Option is still in effect. Obamacare can be repealed through reconciliation with a simple majority and Obama has to have money to implement his agenda. (I know what everyone is going to say, “Yeah right, like the Republicans will ever repeal Obamacare and threaten Obama with the infamous “I” word, or hold him hostage to a budget showdown”. Well I’ll agree with you ahead of time, but if the GOP doesn’t show the country what they’re made of, 2016 is going to be a bigger nightmare for the Republicans than 2014 is for the Democrats.

    • #9
  10. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Reconciliation could be away around a Democratic filibuster of repeal, but it doesn’t do anything about Obama’s veto power. Do you really think threatening impeachment is a serious option? Do you think it would be a positive development for our polity if it were? Why do you think Obama would cave in the face of a government shutdown this time?

    • #10
  11. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    I want most and expect a return to regular legislative order. Bills introduced, marked up in committee, amendments introduced, conference committees, etc… A budget with specific appropriations bills sent to the president will hopefully end the use of CR’s to fund the government and deny the President the ability to hold gov’t shutdowns over the head of the funding process. It should be much easier to defund objectionable programs in the context of a specific appropriations bill rather than an all inclusive CR.
    Also, having a Senate bulwark against agency and court nominations will be a great benefit.

    • #11
  12. calvincoolidg@gmail.com Inactive
    calvincoolidg@gmail.com
    @CalvinCoolidg

    Salvatore Padula:Reconciliation could be away around a Democratic filibuster of repeal, but it doesn’t do anything about Obama’s veto power. Do you really think threatening impeachment is a serious option? Do you think it would be a positive development for our polity if it were?Why do you think Obama would cave in the face of a government shutdown this time?

    You’re right on all fronts Salvatore, but the confirmation process of the judiciaries is under the current rules. That’s how the Democrats have confirmed so many so fast. If McConnell uses his head for more than a hat rack it would be a good way to obstruct future nominees. Impeachment is out of the question and there are already rumblings in the house of passing a fully funded bill for the next fiscal year. That would sideline the new congress and put everyone back into campaign mode for 2016. I’m just sending out the warning ahead of the celebration.

    • #12
  13. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Calvin Coolidg,
    Not next fiscal year, this fiscal year.

    • #13
  14. calvincoolidg@gmail.com Inactive
    calvincoolidg@gmail.com
    @CalvinCoolidg

    Z in MT:Calvin Coolidg, Not next fiscal year, this fiscal year.

    Nope. Next fiscal year.

    • #14
  15. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    I agree with Salvatore that the most likely action with long-term impact is on judges.  I hope the R’s don’t succumb to the thinking that the president deserves deference in this–it’s not like they receive that deference when they hold the office of President.

    I hold some optimism that some small things may be able to happen, possibly the Keystone pipeline (because it has both conservative and union support) and maybe some bits of ACA.  However, I don’t see any chance of repeal of ACA.

    We have to remember that health care wasn’t a well functioning system prior to ACA and that the call to return to “what we had, because it wasn’t as bad” isn’t exactly inspiring.  Also, if we try to repeal pieces such as the medical device tax, we’ll be hammered for raising the deficit in contrast to our promises.  If we pair it with other spending cuts, we’ll be pilloried for cutting taxes for corporations and not caring about the little guy

    Ok, off to vote—Go Comstock and Gillespie!

    • #15
  16. user_50776 Inactive
    user_50776
    @AlKennedy

    Henry Olsen has a thought provoking article in NRO with his predictions, what conservatives should learn from the 2014 elections, and what they should do to get ready for the 2016 election.  It’s worth a read.

    • #16
  17. liberal jim Inactive
    liberal jim
    @liberaljim

    The GOP could accomplish a great deal but they won’t.  The GOP will do what they think is in their own political self-nterest and what is best for the country will, as usual, be ignored.  After two years of Senate control there will be a bigger federal government, more spending and more regulation.   I see no one is even talking about undoing the harm that has been done during the past 14 or 26 years.   Face it the GOP for the most part favors only a slightly less intrusive, only slightly less controlling and only slightly bigger government than the big O.  and since he would like to see much more government than we have now that means the GOP wants more.  The bigger the government is the more power the establishments of both parties have and that is what drives them.  Remember what the GOP accomplished a mere six years ago, TARP, better known as at the biggest federal slush fund in history, Auto company bailout, the first stimulus, more federal interference in local education, need I go on.  Why anyone would be expecting anything but more of the same is beyond me.  No one that I am aware of is expecting Reagan to be resurrected.

    • #17
  18. Klaatu Inactive
    Klaatu
    @Klaatu

    The GOP could accomplish a great deal but they won’t. The GOP will do what they think is in their own political self-nterest and what is best for the country will, as usual, be ignored. After two years of Senate control there will be a bigger federal government, more spending and more regulation. I see no one is even talking about undoing the harm that has been done during the past 14 or 26 years.

    What exactly do you believe the GOP could do while Obama is still in the WH? Spending will of course continue to rise because without entitlements reform it is on auto-pilot. More people retire and become eligible, more money is spent. Obama will never sign entitlement reform and the GOP will not have the votes to override a veto. That is if there is any popular support for such reform to begin with. With regard to regulations, unfortunately those are largely a function of executive agencies. The best we can expect is to keep some of the more radical appointees from being confirmed to impose new or enforxe existing regulations in a new way.

    I would also add that it may be about time some of us accept the reality that our dream for a radically smaller government is not widely shared among our fellow citizens. Until we convince our families, friends, neighbors of the problems with the Leviathan, we should not expect Republican office holders to implement such a policy. Building public support is largely a job for the grass roots not elected officials.

    • #18
  19. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    Oh crap. I made a slight grammatical edit and it republished at the top of the member feed. I apologize for that. It’s bad form.

    Have edits been doing this for a while? I haven’t posted much in the last two months.

    • #19
  20. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Don’t worry Sal, everybody knows that happens.

    I wonder if some Dems will reach across the aisle now, especially those who face re-election in conservative states who want to show some independence from an unpopular president who has never done much to court them anyway.  That could give us some progress in several of these areas.  I’m thinking we might see something on immigration reform along the lines of a secured border, a guest worker program, maybe a long and arduous get-in-back-of-the-line pathway to citizenship, something like that.  Dems have been wanting reform and will look very bad if they don’t cooperate, as will Obama.  Most of all, in case any Supremes die or resign, I hope we can prevent a really awful appointment there.

    • #20
  21. user_512412 Inactive
    user_512412
    @RichardFinlay
    Merina Smith

    I wonder if some Dems will reach across the aisle now, especially those who face re-election in conservative states who want to show some independence from an unpopular president who has never done much to court them anyway.

    An interesting thought.  Especially since they can expect Obama to veto anyway, they could vote for a Republican bill they actually disagree with.  What would be more significant is if they would vote to override the veto; that would take party coordination to let the most endangered senators distance themselves from the president without letting the override succeed.  Look for a lot of ’59’ override votes if this comes to pass.

    • #21
  22. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Heartbreak.

    • #22
  23. user_75648 Thatcher
    user_75648
    @JohnHendrix

    Good post, Sal.  I didn’t know that at the end of the day that Obama will have selected about 40% of the federal judges.

    Once there is a Republican Senate then the GOP needs to do is start the impeachment process.  Obama violated the “take care” clauses when he refused to enforce immigration laws because he objected to them on policy grounds.

    Such presidential lawlessness is intolerable in our system.  Setting the precedent that a president can get away with refusal to enforce the law for policy reasons will cause significance damage to our Constitutional order.

    Put another way, an impeachment attempt will be a form of Constitutional damage control.

    Put yet another way, if the GOP fails to initiate impeachment proceeding then it is signaling that it accepts that Presidents can be lawless.

    Yes, I know, we cannot obtain the necessary super-majority unless enough Dems join with the GOP. Regardless of the expected outcome, this needs to be done anyway.  That such an impeachment attempt will most likely fail to remove Obama is beside the point.

    I think it is important to force Democrat senators to publicly declare whether they think a President can–in effect–veto an existing law he doesn’t like by refusing to enforce it.

    Yes, a successful impeachment attempt means President Biden.  Allowing the next two years to pass without attempting the impeach would establish the precedent that Presidents can ignore the “take care” clause, which will cause significance damage to our Constitutional order. In comparison, the absurdity of a President Biden is a trifling thing that we will get over.

    I think the voters would like to know which senators are copacetic with lawless presidents.  Forcing a vote on articles of impeachment would smoke out these senators. The voters might consider that useful information to have in 2016.

    • #23
  24. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    Randy Webster: The other advantage is in forcing Obama to veto possibly popular legislation, though I’m not sure how important this will be given a hostile (to Republicans) press.

    Agreed.  I think that’s about it.  Bl0ck and embarrass.

    • #24
  25. Metalheaddoc Member
    Metalheaddoc
    @Metalheaddoc

    Do Democrats do this? The “we don’t have 60 votes so don’t expect anything” excuse?

    The GOP seems to act like losers even when they win.  Obama is deeply unpopular. If the senate majority leader can’t cobble together 8-10 Democrats on some common sense legislation, the he is horrible at his job. The PR machine should label the Dems as obstructionist. Then, the GOP should get rid of the filibuster and ram through a budget and every other fantasy legislation including a puppy for every child and NOAA mandated rainbows everyday until Obama’s veto pen runs out of ink.

    • #25
  26. virgil15marlow@yahoo.com Member
    virgil15marlow@yahoo.com
    @Manny

    Yes, nothing is going to get passed, as others have pointed out, we will need 60 votes.  But we can pass legislation to put the Democrats on the defensive which will effect the presidential election.  Whatever he refuses to sign becomes an issue for 2016, almost a referendum.  It’s huge to control both Houses.  I remember Bush 41 was cornered because of it.

    • #26
  27. user_645127 Inactive
    user_645127
    @JenniferJohnson

    Very thoughtful analysis, Sal. Thanks.

    • #27
  28. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    John- Do you consider pursuing impeachment to be the sine qua non of a successful Republican Senate?

    • #28
  29. SPare Member
    SPare
    @SPare

    here are a couple things:

    1.  Refuse to approve one single nominee (at least any with lifetime tenure) for the remainder of Obama’s term, as payback for the change to the Senate rules.

    2.  Force tough bills not only for Obama to Veto, but also for endangered Democrat Senators- put them between their party and their electorate.  Yes, there will be a number of 59 vote veto over-rides, but you can almost guarantee that there’s going to be fighting over who’s #59 and who’s #60 in those scenarios.

    In terms of achieving something meaningful, don’t expect it.  For those complaining how the Dems get their agenda while we wait, note that they didn’t actually get a lot of their wishes through in 2006-08.  What they did is shape the issue environment for a blowout electoral win in ’08, and then ran to daylight for the next 2 years.  The Republican opportunity now is similar.

    • #29
  30. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    SPare: Yes, there will be a number of 59 vote veto over-rides, but you can almost guarantee that there’s going to be fighting over who’s #59 and who’s #60 in those scenarios.

    It takes 67 votes to override a veto.

    • #30
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