Republicans appear increasingly likely to take over the Senate as a result of November’s election, giving them control of both houses of Congress for at least two years.
So what does that mean for President Obama and the Democrats?
While some political observers are predicting apocalyptic doom, others are saying the Democrats secretly aren’t worried at all — because even the most lopsided victory in next month’s election would leave the GOP several seats short of the votes necessary to overcome an Obama veto, and prospects for the 2016 election overwhelmingly favor the Democrats.
In the meantime, GOP majorities in the House and Senate could possibly attempt to impeach the president, roll back the Affordable Care Act, outlaw abortion, and sell off national parks to oil companies.
But what might actually happen?
Michael Cornfield, a George Washington University political scientist, predicts ugly confirmation fights over judicial and other nominations, which would only worsen the backlog of Obama nominees awaiting Senate confirmation.
A Republican majority would most likely “take a strategic pass” on social issues, Cornfield said, and he doubts they would “get anywhere substantial” in rolling back Obamacare or making any cuts to long-term entitlement spending.
“I think they have to do something about immigration — and they may get cooperation from the White House,” Cornfield said. “I think they are determined to do something about energy independence, starting with Keystone (XL); Obama may agree if he can bring something back to the environmentalists in return.”
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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, warned that Republicans would continue their “war on working Americans.”
Reich said Republicans refuse to raise the minimum wage, and he warned that some GOP candidates had even suggested abolishing the federal minimum wage.
“Forget unemployment benefits,” he said. “Republicans won’t extend them to the long-term unemployed, even though 9.5 million Americans are still seeking work and 3 million have been without jobs for more than six months.”
Reich said a GOP-controlled Senate would not approve spending on infrastructure projects that could put Americans back to work, and would likely pursue additional tax cuts for the wealthy.
Cornfield expects “lots more hearings” on federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, but probably not impeachment hearings.
“Some of them are always on the lookout for a pretext, but others bear the scars of the Clinton impeachment drive and will counsel restraint in action, if not rhetoric,” Cornfield said.
He also doesn’t expect any real change to consumer protection laws, because neither party wants to step into that minefield.
“That’s tricky for them as well as the Democrats, because both parties need the financial support of Wall Street but the political support of Main Street,” Cornfield said. “I see that as a tug of war that bogs down in the mind-numbing technicalities of the issue. Only Chris Christie and Elizabeth Warren seem capable of articulating anything in this area that resonates with the general public.”