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Mar 20 2014

A Republican Senate Takeover Wouldn’t Mean Much

With the 2014 midterm elections less than 8 months away, the prospect of the Republicans taking control of the Senate looms as a real possibility. It’s going to be really close, maybe even a 50/50 tie. But would it really change anything if the Republicans took over the Senate? Paul Waldman says no.

If the Republicans do take the Senate, they won’t have a lot of time to savor the victory, because two years later they’re going to be the ones defending more seats (see Sean Trende’s analysis for more details). That makes it entirely possible, maybe even likely, that Republicans will have control of both houses for only two years, and after 2016 we’ll go back to the way things are now. So can they legislate during that time?

To a certain degree, the question is moot as long as Obama is president. Anything big and consequential on the Republican agenda would get vetoed. But you can accomplish a lot by thinking relatively small. The question is whether Republicans — or to be more specific, House Republicans — are capable of doing that…

Now let’s turn to the House. Last night, The Post’s Robert Costa reported that House Republican leaders are coalescing around an alternative to the ACA that would do some of the things Republicans have been advocating for years: repeal the ACA, institute medical malpractice reform, let people buy insurance across state lines and a few other things.

See the difference? The senators accept that the ACA is law and are thinking about how they’d like to change it. The House members are coming up with another way to make a futile, symbolic shaking of their fists in the general direction of the White House. And this may offer a clue to how legislating would proceed in a Republican Congress. The House, still dominated by extremely conservative Republicans for whom any hint of compromise is considered the highest treason, could continue to pass one doomed bill after another, while the Senate tries to write bills that have at least some chance of ever becoming law.

I think this is likely true. The House Republicans have no interest in actually governing or making smart policy. They’re in it to throw bombs. The Senate tends to be more mature and less extreme. And that infighting between the Republicans will work to the president’s benefit. And in neither chamber would they have the votes to override a veto. A Republican takeover of the Senate changes politics but isn’t likely to change policy in any significant way.

11 comments

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  1. 1
    Randomfactor

    SCOTUS.

  2. 2
    R Johnston

    SCOTUS indeed. When it comes to appointments, particularly lifetime appointments but also the mundane appointments, control of the Senate certainly matters. Republican control matters, and matters quite a lot. Republicans are idiots intent on making this country a worse place, and control of the Senate would allow them to make headway.

  3. 3
    Pierce R. Butler

    Anything big and consequential on the Republican agenda would get vetoed.

    Or co-opted and implemented under Obama’s name – see Iraq, “stimulus”, Affordable Care Act, Robert Gates, TIA/NSA, etc, etc, etc.

  4. 4
    Synfandel

    A rebuttal from Talking Points Memo:

    Democrats’ Nightmare: What A GOP Senate Would Look Like In 2015.

  5. 5
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I’m reminded of the meme that there was “no difference” between Gore and Bush….

  6. 6
    d.c.wilson

    But you can accomplish a lot by thinking relatively small. The question is whether Republicans — or to be more specific, House Republicans — are capable of doing that…

    I wasn’t aware that House Republicans were capable of thinking any other way besides being small-minded.

  7. 7
    d.c.wilson

    R. Johnson and Randomfactor:

    But is there really any practical difference between the republicans filibustering all of Obama’s nominees and flat out voting them down? Already, the right has proven successful in blocking many of Obama’s judicial nominees, including many that were recommended by republicans. They’re now blocking his surgeon general nominee based on an issue that office doesn’t even have any direct authority over.

    I’m going to be a contrarian and say that total republican control over Congress woud indeed be a nightmare scenario for the republicans, because then they would be expected to do some actual governing. Up until now, House republicans have had a nice time of it doing nothing but holding one pointless vote after another. But what are they going to do when the adults in the Senate pass a budget that doesn’t include slapping lunch trays out of poor kids’ hands and turning off Granny’s home heating assistance? They won’t be able to blame it on free spending democrats when a republican Senate budget isn’t draconian enough for the teabaggers.

  8. 8
    tubi

    …institute medical malpractice reform, let people buy insurance across state lines and a few other things.

    Is this seriously still all they’ve come up with? (That’s rhetorical)

    Am I wrong that these mean capping tort awards for malpractice and allowing the insurance market to end up like credit cards, where companies just set up shop in the states with the least stringent regulations on their trade? (That’s real)

    Does anyone know what are the “few other things”? (That’s also real, and I don’t want a link to some 100 page report from 6 years ago, like some of my fb friends have sent. Conservatives who want to get rid of the ACA should be able to give an elevator pitch of what their* plan would do, the same way I suspect most of us could do for the ACA)

    *Of course, the ACA used to be their plan.

  9. 9
    democommie

    The motto of today’s GOP:

    “Extremism in the pursuit of punishment of the poor and other voiceless constituencies is not a vice. It may not be a virtue, either, too, but it’s a GREAT fucking business plan for getting teh campaign dolluz!”

    @8:

    Tubi, your naiveteness is touching but the ACA was NEVER their plan. Their plan was to block Hilary’s plan; their proto-ACA gambit was simply a bad faith offer to give cover to GOP members in districts that might be in danger of tipping left in response to their being honest about what massive douchenozzles they really are.

  10. 10
    garnetstar

    Don’t you think that they’ll also impeach Obama? Darrell Issa will come up with some ridiculous charge, and both houses will pass it. It would be very popular with the extremist right base.

  11. 11
    eric

    Agree with @7. While yes, a Senate majority could scuttle a supreme court nomination, their large minority already scuttles Dem judicial nominations effectively.

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