Mitch McConnell

Chances are Republicans are going to take over the Senate, giving them unified control of Congress. This is a goal Republicans have been working toward for years. And I think it will be a very mixed blessing.

I expect that the deep internal divisions in the party will do to the Senate what they have done to the House: unite them in opposition to Democrats but provide no common ground for action. Thus the GOP can easily vote to Repeal ACA but they have been unable to pass any of the five replacement plans in the House.

They have a public dilemma too.

Appealing to a broad electorate is very different than appeasing an angry and suspicious base. The tension this creates will play out in new ways if and when Republicans take over the Senate.

In Kansas recently, Republican Senator Pat Roberts, who’s in a tough race for reelection, made a statement that left me puzzled. “A vote for me is a vote to change the Senate back to a Republican majority, and we’ll get things done,” he said. “And it means a stop to the Obama agenda.”

Which is it—ending the status quo of Washington gridlock? Or ratcheting up the gridlock by obstructing President Obama? You can’t “get things done” in Washington without the president’s signature, and no matter what happens in this year’s elections, he’s not going anywhere for another two years.

Yet these two seemingly contradictory messages are at the heart of Republican Senate campaigns across the country. I’ve heard them from candidate after candidate.

You can dance around this issue on the campaign trail but not in the halls of Congress.

There will be tremendous built-up pressure from conservatives that Sen. Mitch McConnell (assuming he wins his own race and becomes majority leader) will have to satisfy. That means votes on things such as repealing the Affordable Care Act, building border fences, slashing environmental regulations and cutting corporate taxes. Most or all of which will be unpopular and inevitably filibustered by Senate Democrats. McConnell could redo the filibuster rules entirely.

In November 2013, Reid and Democrats changed the Senate rules to eliminate filibusters on some presidential appointments and limit them on others. Though it was called “the nuclear option,” the true nuclear option would apply to legislation, which under current rules the minority is still free to filibuster (as the Republicans do- a lot!). Would McConnell go fully nuclear and get rid of that, too, so the GOP Congress could send bills to the president’s desk?

But why? Obama will veto the bills he does not support and the 2/3 required to overturn a veto is way out of reach. McConnell knows that his time as majority leader would come with a two-year expiration date. In 2016 there will be only 10 Democrat-held seats up for election and these are all very safe seats, while Republicans will be defending 24 seats, many in Democratic states, and they will be doing it in a presidential election year, when the electorate that comes to the polls is far more friendly to Democrats. McConnell won’t be too eager to hand a Senate with no filibusters back to Reid in 2016 and the odds are that this is what he will have to do.

That leaves Republicans with the following dynamic: They pass bills meant to mollify their supporters, the bills are filibustered by Democrats and the bills die. Other than stopping Obama administration appointments (something significant, particularly when it comes to judges, but one that gets a limited amount of attention), Senate Republicans will have little to show their base.

And they will have even less to show the broader public. Obama will decry the do-nothing, radicalized Congress, and to the average voter, that’s exactly what it will look like: a bunch of Washington blowhards having temper tantrums that don’t do anything to improve Americans’ lives.

Not only that, at various times they will have no choice but to make deals with Obama. McConnell, John Boehner and the more sober Republicans know that there’s nothing worse for them politically than forcing government shutdowns and debt defaults. That means they will have to agree to continuing resolutions keeping the government open and making increases in the debt ceiling in order to avoid national and political disaster. And when they do, the tea party base of the GOP will be enraged. “What did we elect a Republican Congress for?” it will shout.

In short, the Republican tension between satisfying the base and appealing to the entire electorate will be made significantly worse if the party controls both houses of Congress. The Republicans will get almost none of the practical things they want, and their political headaches will be multiplied. McConnell is a shrewd operator, but it’s hard to see how even he can find his way out of that dilemma.

Let me add the ULTIMATE headache.

THE IMPEACHMENT OF BARACK H. OBAMA.Oh yes, the House could end up voting articles of impeachment since the Speaker may not be able to stop his own caucus from doing this. Once those bills are passed, the Senate must take it up. The trial will be a political nightmare for the GOP in the same way that it was when Clinton was tried (and worse because Obama’s crimes will come off as so much sour grapes and political bickering) In the end Obama will be found not guilty because the GOP will not have the 2/3 vote to find him guilty. And then comes 2016…..The Clinton trial nearly broke the GOP. What would an Obama trial do?

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I was thinking about this very subject too Murph,but you fleshed it out perfectly.Let’s see what they do.It does not bode well for the next 2 years regardless.And there will be the Presidential election of 2016 that the media will play up the day after this election


Murph, great article. I can’t find any holes in your logic. I think Republicans like everyone else are waiting to see what the margin of victory is to determine their strategy.

They’ve been perfectly happy with utter paralysis for 4 years. It hasn’t been a bad strategy as there have been no electoral consequence on a federal level as a result.

IF they end up with what I think is the most likely scenario of 51 Senate seats and 1 Independent to caucus with them, they may have to be satisfied with going through the motions for 2 more years. This may be their best bet going into 2016. “See? We’ve tried to fulfill the American People’s wishes and the President/Democratic Senate won’t cooperate.”

I think they’re satisfied with control of Congress. They’d like to have the Presidency, but I don’t think it matters to them as much. They want the positions that really matter: Attorney Generals, Judges, Governors, State Legislatures, Congress. These are the offices that carry nearly all of the domestic political power.

If they muddy the water and stall long enough to keep the electorate from becoming furious, that may be their best bet to retain the raft of Senate seats up for grabs in 2016.

IF they take all of the close races, then I think it likely they’ll be able to peel off 3-4 moderate or conservative Dem Senator votes on certain vetoes. I think Obama will be under more pressure to compromise as well. This is dangerous though, because then they’ll actually have to govern, actually put together legislation with a snowball’s chance to pass.

That is not what their base sent them to Washington to do. That also will attract anger and energy from formerly cynical and disaffected liberals and moderates going into a Presidential election year.

Either way, it gives the .00005% another 2 years to loot the commons, which is what every Republican was hired to do by their employers.


All things considered, I’d rather live in Denmark.


Hi, Murph, Another excellent, intuitive article. So much can go against the Teapublicans if they win the Senate. However, just a tiny note of cynicism…
they are sooo good at media messaging. They will work it, and work it, and work it. One has to admire them for that despite how one feels about their ideology. As the old saying goes “Fool me once”…fool me again! ; )

Does the electorate really move away from the Teapublicans in 2016? I do not trust them one iota. However, I am not so much concerned about Congress as I am about State races and their consequences. Because, as I see it, it is there that the power lies to legislate damaging change for millions of Americans. Just look at what they have done in Red States since 2010.

Please talk me down.

An observant Canadian


Leafs, you aren’t wrong. While Republicans control 59 of 98 partisan state chambers right now, they could end up with several more by the end of tomorrow night.

On a positive, it looks as if Democrats may pick up a net +2 governorships by the end of the election.

Dems are likely going to have to wait until 2020 to right this very serious problem.


Dems may likely have to wait until 2020, but can America wait?
Six years before the fickle electorate feel the consequences of Republican dominance…not even mentioning the problems overseas.
It raises my ire and tonight it will sicken me.

Sorry for being so morose, but at 76 years of age, 6 more years of hate and bad government is hard to swallow.

Thanks for your reply, funksands. Much appreciated. Now I will sit and watch and hope and pray for a miracle. ; )

A disappointed Canadian


HI murph excellent article and you have brought up the thinks i have posted to others why taking the senate by 51 could very well end any chances of the GOP gaining power again.

Point one; Your correct the GOP can not get by a filibuster. The point is they may have to filibuster their own bills. for Obama will veto them.

Point two: they can change the rules that 51 senators passes bills to the president but that would end the GOP’s grip on filibustering in the coming yrs.

point three: No they can not get passed a veto. What this will cause is nothing gets done for two more yrs making the GOP look Galactic-ally stupid.
They will get slaughtered in 2016 in the senate and the house will get closer. They can not shutdown the government again for fear Obama will take executive action so the USA can not default. OH it is a myth about the debt sealing. that value can be 25 to 30 trillion dollars. We do not borrow that much money at the start only what is needed. Also If budgets are passed saying they will balance the budget. once they do they will never reach the cap. This can be shown on a graph rather easily.

Point four: the GOP has about ZIPPO chance of winning the presidency in 2016. They control states that have very little e college votes. IF the lose Texas they can not win. if they lose Florida they have to take almost all the swings states and that is not very likely.

Point five: The GOP will alienate the minimum wages republicans workers and those not getting extensions on unemployment. They already lose to many republicans women’s votes. Then republicans that have same sex marriages of want them are not going to vote GOP. They ca not afford to lose that many votes. Also if some of these pass and the economy does not tank. They again will look like fools.

Point Six. If they do not appoint judges and Obama is not going to back down he will appoint liberals. The court system will slow down to much.

I did say this before by my calculations the GOP get 49 or 48 senators. Now again you can hold me to that after the election.

Point seven: The GOP may lose a few to many governors slowing down the onslaught of pro life.

Again a fine article. I still can not believe that you use to voted GOP in the past.


Murph, the “news” perpetuates the idea that the GOP will take over the Senate, constantly. I look at it differently. There are many close races and the Democrats are likely to win some. I even believe that McConnell is going to be retired !


Odd…….just read on the news, this year, Black Friday will start one month before…….Could it be to keep absent generation a further reason NOT to vote???


Magnificent article,MTS! I will certainly share it all over.Just hoping your input here never materializes.
It reminds me of Cicero and Catiline conspiracy which granted the Senate the Senatus Consultum Ultimum!!!!!


Here’s hoping the rightwing fringe wackos make life truly miserable for what’s left of the establishment GOP during the next two years. I do resent having to pay their salaries during this period, knowing that they won’t earn them.