There are a number of basic questions that will be answered very soon. We will know if Democratic control of the Senate continues and what kind of support President Obama will have for his agenda over the next two years.
Crucially, we will know whether we will get any compromise or conciliation before we elect a new president in 2016.
If the past six years are a good guide – and I believe they are – we’re most likely to see more of the same. Confrontation and discord will continue to characterize inter-party dealings, and even intra-party dealings.
Divisions within both the Democrats and Republicans were on full display during the midterms, with challenges from Tea Party and Independent candidates highlighting a lack of cohesive ideology and shared sense of purpose on both sides of the aisle.
It follows that even if Republicans control the Senate – the most likely outcome as final polling shows toss-up races across the country steadily shifting toward the Republicans – it is unlikely that they will be able to govern effectively. This is partly due to internal divisions that will make it difficult to come together in support of an agenda – or significant bills for that matter.
Compounding this problem is the fact that it’s extremely unlikely that President Obama will be doing anything other than vetoing Republican bill after Republican bill. Considering that the president has shown little interest in compromising with Republican lawmakers over the course of his tenure, even when Democrats had at least some control of the House, I can’t imagine a scenario wherein the legislation Republicans come up with on their own will become law.
Key figures in the Republican leadership have acknowledged that they’re going to have to change the way they operate in order to take advantage of controlling both chambers.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy bluntly told a group of donors, “I do know this: If we don’t capture the House stronger, and the Senate, and prove we could govern, there won’t be a Republican president in 2016.”
In an interview with the Atlantic’s Molly Ball, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said that a Republican-controlled Senate would be committed to working with President Obama. Portman “mentioned tax reform, a 'grand bargain' on the budget, an energy budget – perhaps something that combines Keystone XL pipeline approval with reductions in carbon emissions – and new free trade agreements.”
There is much to be excited about in the agenda that Sen. Portman laid out. But there’s also very little reason to think that anything like that would even get enough Republican support to get to President Obama’s desk.
And then there’s Obama’s preference to govern by executive order, which is top of mind for the Republicans and even some Democrats.
The president's promise to deliver comprehensive immigration reform after the election by way of executive order has naturally ruffled feathers. McCarthy left open the possibility of an immigration overhaul, but added that if the president approached it by executive order it would “stop everything.”
Judging by the president's attitude, I think we’re headed for the “stop everything” scenario, as well as the possibility of a constitutional crisis and a renewed push for impeachment.
The Republicans will continue to seek to repeal ObamaCare. And there will be more investigations by the Republicans like the ones we saw with the IRS, NSA and Benghazi.
Truth be told, there’s no reason for the Republicans to do anything differently. If they take the Senate, they will have managed to win the election without a clear plan or strategy.
The New York Times panned their so-called economic plan as just a bunch of small ideas, and Republicans have yet to offer a meaningful reform package for health care or immigration reform.
It follows that the Republican take-away from this victory will be that the way to win in 2016 is with more attacks.
So what’s at stake? Everything and nothing at the same time.