Published on TheHill.com on May 27, 2014
Why, some Republicans are asking, should the GOP focus on winning the Senate this year? What will it achieve as long as Barack Obama is still president? We won’t get 67 votes to override his vetoes, or even 60 votes to overcome filibusters. Why bother?
There are a number of strong reasons why winning the Senate is worth working for.
If Republicans control the Senate, they can block the confirmation of judges who will allow Obama’s power overreach. You can bet Majority Leader Harry Reid will confirm every judicial nomination in sight before relinquishing control of the chamber in January 2015. But he can’t stop Republicans from blocking confirmations on any new judges the president appoints after the GOP takes the Senate.
The president does not have a line-item veto, so control of both Houses could empower Republicans to put in budget lines that restrict Obama’s favorite programs. Because budget bills don’t need 60 votes, the Senate Democrats can’t stop them.
Obama can, of course, veto the entire budget and set the stage for a government shutdown. But if the Republicans are wise, they will limit their demands to marginal items over which Obama will not play Russian roulette. Instead of defunding all of ObamaCare, for example, just defund the medical device tax and the Payment Advisory Board (what’s been called the death panel).
Republicans would also be able to stop obnoxious treaties from being ratified. Technically, they can so now, as only 37 votes will do the trick, but Reid won’t bring the treaties that might be defeated to the floor. As long as they have not had a ratification vote, the treaties remain in force under the Vienna Convention.
Republicans would be able to bring up votes on — and thereby kill — the Arms Trade Treaty (backdoor gun control) and the Law of the Sea treaty (giving the United Nations power over the oceans). They would also be able to kill the climate change treaty that Secretary of State John Kerry is negotiating and any possible Internet treaty that undermines Internet freedom.
Some of the administration initiatives have triggered bipartisan opposition. And, as the piles of defeated Democrats mount after the 2014 elections take place in November, there is likely to be more unease among the formerly faithful. On issues like coal, National Security Agency surveillance, trade agreements, gun control, union election rules, restoring welfare reforms under former President Clinton and cracking down on food stamp fraud, there could be enough Democratic support to override a veto or two.
There is more to winning an election than the actual number of seats gained. There is also momentum. A massive political defeat for an incumbent president signifies broad national dislike of his policies and disgust with their outcomes. Obama, for example, did not really recover from his party’s 2010 electoral defeat until he killed Osama bin Laden six months later. The GOP can send the Democrats into 2016 reeling from the blows of 2014.
There are a number of good possible presidential candidates among the Republican Senate minority, including Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.). With a majority, they can shine. The can hold hearings, pass bills and develop the momentum and issue basis for strong presidential runs. A victory in 2014 would give them a running start on 2016.
For most Republicans, defeating Obama’s minions is enough motivation to donate sweat and money to the cause. But for others, there is a lot to be gained — concretely — by winning the Senate.
By any count, Republicans stand to win in South Dakota, Montana and West Virginia. Democratic incumbents are on thin ice in Louisiana, North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas and, during warm weather, Alaska.
Open seats in Michigan and Iowa show competitive Republican candidates in the early going.
Even New Hampshire might be in play.
That’s 11 seats. And the Republicans need only to win six.
So these good things may yet come to pass.
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