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.