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Debate breaks out over whether GOP Senate takeover is a good thing for Obama

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama
Photo by Pool/Getty Images

Washington Post writer Dana Milbank notes the gathering storm that faces President Obama that will likely cause his party to lose the Senate in a Friday editorial. Chaos abroad and scandal at home seem to be combining to hammer the president and his party. In one poll Obama has been judged the worst president in post war history. Indeed it seems to be the sort of perfect storm that causes wave elections in which power shifts from one party to the other.

“Iraq and Syria are overrun with terrorists. Violence is flaring in Ukraine and on Israel’s borders. A humanitarian crisis is developing on our own southern border, but immigration legislation, like most all legislation, is moribund. Probes of the veterans’ health-care system, the IRS and Benghazi are sucking up attention and the administration’s time.”

Milbank goes on to suggest that a GOP takeover of the Senate would be a good thing for the president. The theory is that not only could he campaign against a “do nothing congress” much like Harry Truman did in the run up to the 1948 election, but that he can also campaign against an “overreaching” Congress, much like Bill Clinton did before the 1998 midterms during the Lewinsky scandal and his impeachment for perjury and obstruction of justice.

“There would be no more excuses for Republicans’ failure to put forward their own health-care plan, immigration proposals, specific cuts to popular government programs, and pet causes involving abortion, birth control and gay rights. This would set up real clashes with Obama — who could employ the veto pen he hasn’t used a single time since Republicans gained control of the House in 2010 — and sharp contrasts that would put him on the winning side of public opinion.

“It is not hard to imagine a Republican takeover of the Senate causing conservatives in both chambers to overreach. House Republicans would get more pressure from their base to take a swing at impeachment, because the odds of convicting Obama in the Senate would be better (if still prohibitive).”

Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff suggested on Saturday that there is a fly in this ointment. Most legislation that the Democrats would label as onerous would likely not reach President Obama’s desk in any case. The reason is that Senate Democrats would still be able to filibuster such legislation, keeping it bottled up.

The Republican strategy, according to Mirengoff, will be to force Democrats to take unpopular votes on legislation such as Obamacare reform, tax cuts, and spending reductions. The strategy will be designed for the Republicans having taken the Senate in 2014, to keep it in 2016 when the numbers of GOP senators up for reelection vs Democrats would favor the latter party. The filibuster strategy would play into Republican hands, so goes this theory, under the idea that to break gridlock, Americans need to elect a Republican president.

In any event senate Republicans will still have plenty of other ways to make Obama’s last two years in office an affliction. They will be able to block the president’s more egregious nominees. They will join with House Republicans in investigating various scandals such as the IRS, the VA, and Benghazi. Apparently impeachment is off the table. With the end of the Obama presidency drawing nigh anyway, it would seem to be pointless.

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