Dana Milbank, the Clown Prince of the Washington Post, argues that having an “all-Republican Congress” might help President Obama. By all-Republican Congress, Milbank means a majority Republican Senate to go along with the majority Republican House.
Milbank reasons that with Republicans in control of both chambers, they would pass conservative legislation on matters such as immigration, health care, the budget, and abortion. Obama could then veto that legislation, thereby enhancing his popularity and helping Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency.
Does Obama see these alleged advantages as sufficient to offset (1) the inability, given a Republican Senate, to confirm left-wing nominees, including judicial ones and (2) the constant investigation by both chambers of various administration scandals and acts of malfeasance? I doubt it.
But the major problems with Milbank’s scenario are (1) vetoing conservative legislation would not likely make Obama a hero and (2) such legislation wouldn’t pass the Senate in any event.
What would the alleged legislative overreach by Republicans consist of? On immigration, it would be legislation to secure the border. On health care, it would be repeal of much of Obamacare, a widely unpopular law, but the retention (presumably) of popular provisions such as those dealing with extended coverage under parental policies and pre-existing conditions.
Obama wouldn’t gain points by vetoing such legislation.
It’s likely, to be sure, that Republicans would push for some less popular legislation. But given their desire to retain control in 2016 — a tough year for Senate Republicans — the focus in the Senate would be on legislation the passage of which would not be politically suicidal.
In any event, even with a majority in the Senate, Republicans will not be able to pass conservative legislation, “suicidal” or otherwise. Democrats would filibuster such legislation. Republicans wouldn’t tamper with the filibuster rules because they know that (1) Obama could veto whatever legislation they pass and (2) the Democrats would stand a decent chance of recapturing the Senate in 2016.
But with control of the Senate Republicans could improve their 2016 prospects by forcing Senate Democrats to cast unpopular votes. Right now, with the Dems in control, their members are protected from having to do so.
Milbank doesn’t face up to the issue of the filibuster until the very end of his column. At that point, the best he can do is express his hope that “Democrats would let some of the more egregious proposals reach Obama’s desk.”
But Senate Democrats aren’t going to permit the passage of legislation that liberals (their base) consider particularly egregious just so a lame duck president can perhaps add a few points to his approval rating.
Dana Milbank may still be rooting for Team Obama. But by next year the rest of the world, including Democratic pols, will have moved on.