Top agenda items for new GOP Congress: Trade agreements, Keystone, parts of ObamaCare

The goal: Show voters right away that Republicans aren’t mere obstructionists, as Democrats so often claim, but are capable of passing popular bills that even Obama might be willing to sign.

This ain’t your daddy’s GOP, they mean to say. And by “your daddy,” they of course mean “Ted Cruz.”

With the 2016 presidential campaign already looming large, McConnell (Ky.) and Boehner (Ohio) are both eager to shed the party’s image as an unruly collection of obstructionists and far-right ideologues.

The remedy, they have decided: Act quickly to send President Obama bills with bipartisan support to fast-track international trade agreements, repeal an unpopular tax on medical devices and approve the Keystone XL pipeline…

GOP leaders are discussing more limited efforts to undermine [ObamaCare], such as watering down the requirement that employers offer full-time workers coverage, which takes effect in January. The administration has already delayed portions of that mandate.

They’ll be chipping away at parts of ObamaCare, in other words, but probably not attempting full repeal unless it’s via a cursory vote that’s duly filibustered by the rump Democratic caucus. Whether tea partiers like Cruz will be satisfied with that or will demand that reconciliation be used to pass a bill that ends up on Obama’s desk remains to be seen. (Uh, didn’t McConnell give thumbs up to reconciliation just last week?) But in case they’re inclined to try any brinksmanship, Mitch the Knife sent them a little message at his press conference today:

Say, where does all of that leave us with respect to Obama’s executive amnesty? Cruz and four other senators sent Harry Reid a letter today warning him that he had better use his power as majority leader to block any unlawful attempts by O to legalize illegals or else they’ll use “all procedural means necessary” to force the Senate to address it during the lame-duck session. McConnell doesn’t have Reid’s luxury of ignoring an executive amnesty. What’s he got planned, then, when it happens? He warned O at today’s presser that going through with it would be a huge mistake, “like waving a red flag in front of a bull,” but that’s just trash talk. What does he intend to do about it? Here’s what he told Time magazine:

What if the president does some sort of executive action on immigration?

Well, he’s done a lot of that sort of thing and the way that you push back on executive overreach is through the funding process. We’re going to pass a budget. We’re going to pass appropriations bills. Appropriations bills are going to have prescriptions of certain things that we think he ought not to be doing by either reducing the funding or restricting the funding.

But if you pass spending bills that he vetoes, doesn’t that lead to the possibility of a government shutdown?

Well, what happens when he vetoes an appropriations bill is you re-pass it.

What does that last part mean, “you re-pass it”? He’s threatening here to defund parts of the government to punish O if he goes ahead with executive amnesty, but he’s also promising everyone who’ll listen that there’ll be no shutdowns, no sirree, and you can take that to the bank. If he means that he intends to re-pass a vetoed bill without the language demanding that Obama rescind his amnesty then he’s basically promising to cave to O right up front. If he means he’ll re-pass a vetoed bill as is and dare Obama to veto it again, that’s … not much of a threat because Obama will veto it again. He’s not going to back down in a test of wills like that with amnesty supporters watching him intently. It’s McConnell who’ll back down because the GOP is terrified of losing any more Latino votes than they already have. So let’s not kid ourselves, okay?

In fact, here’s a morsel from last night’s exit polls. If this is what the numbers look like in a very red electorate, which propelled Republicans to victory virtually everywhere, what’ll they look like with a bluer electorate two years from now?


You think Boehner and McConnell are going to make a big fuss about executive amnesty after that? After establishment Republicans routed tea partiers this past spring and won a wave at the polls driven by their own base in the fall anyway? C’mon. You’ll get over it.

Update: Here’s the man himself at today’s presser, serving notice to Republicans and the voters who handed them a Senate majority last night that amnesty’s comin’ and there’s nothing you chumps can do to stop it — short of passing immigration reform, of course. Your move, McConnell.