There are precious few sure bets in American politics, but if Nate Silver starts giving you a 60% chance at something you generally pay attention. And that’s the odds Nate is laying out for the GOP to retake the Senate. But for a group of people who seem so entirely hell bent for leather on getting this done, we don’t really know what they plan to do with it if they get it. Over at Outside the Beltway, Doug shares some predictions from Michael Tomasky, who is not particularly optimistic.
Let’s start with the bleak view. “If the Republicans win the Senate,” says Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, “the conclusion they’re going to draw is ‘obstruction works,’ and they’re going to double down on it. So they’ll be thinking, ‘Why go out of our way to do stuff and why compromise when in two years we can win it all?’”
Ornstein’s frequent collaborator, Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, thinks that while it should make sense that Republicans eyeing a 2016 White House win would want to have some accomplishments to point to, we shouldn’t bet on it. “The interests of the party in ’16 are clear, but whether that proves sufficient to produce something positive out of the Republicans in Congress is a big reach,” says Mann. “They almost have an incentive to keep the economy going at a more tepid rate.”
Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, agrees. “A GOP Senate takeover would be terrible for Obama’s presidency,” Tanden says. “It would spell the end of any progress on any legislative action and with GOP control of both houses of Congress, Republicans would set up debates to help their presidential candidates in 2016. And of course, investigations of the administration would double.”
What about the senators themselves? New York’s Chuck Schumer predicts: “It would let loose six years of right-wing frustration. The potential for gridlock is enormous.”
Doug doesn’t have much more of a chipper outlook, but I have to wonder if some of these folks are relying a bit too heavily on recent history repeating itself. It’s easy to look at the current lay of the land and assume that with Barack Obama in office for the next two years, nothing much will change. But the ability to get bills out of committee in both chambers and send a finished piece of legislation to the President’s desk has a particular value all of its own. In the current configuration, Democrats can simply point to the divided nature of government as a reason for a lack of progress. But if Congress can begin shoveling finished legislation, approved by the elected representatives of the people, the picture changes.
It would be worth drafting up a number of bills and sending them to Barack Obama’s desk. If he simply vetoes them all, then he is the bottleneck for the next two years. And if he somehow manages to sign something in the spirit of bipartisanship? Bonus.