GOP, Ready to Control Senate, Has New Strategy for Obama

Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 06:54 AM

By Elliot Jager

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With Republicans poised to take control of the Senate, GOP lawmakers are developing a  strategy to pass key bills, while steering clear of negative atmospherics that could damage their chances of capturing the presidency in 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The legislative priorities include approving the Keystone XL pipeline, enacting accelerated rules for overseas trade deals, expediting federal reviews of natural-gas exports, and reversing Obamacare's medical device tax. The new majority will at least be able to offer its vision for major tax reform, according to the Journal.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, has been holding meetings with members to identify prospective legislation. He said the idea is to focus on measures with a modicum of bipartisan support that President Barack Obama would have "to think long and hard about" before dismissing. Sen. Bob Corker, R., Tenn., urged Republicans not to overreach and squander their majority, the Journal reported.

Tea party-aligned Republicans argue that a principled agenda should not be sacrificed in the name of shunning brinkmanship. Dan Holler of Heritage Action for America said that if the goal is simply to find areas of bipartisan agreement, "conservatives will be left on the outside." Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., favors pushing a clear-cut conservative agenda, otherwise "nothing of substance" would come of the Republican majority, the Journal reported.

Using the "reconciliation" process, Republicans may be able to hold sway over the federal budget with a 51-vote majority. If the House pushes for deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid or takes a combative stand on the U.S. government borrowing limit, which comes up in mid-March, passing a budget even with Republican control of both chambers could still be daunting.

Conservative Republicans will want to see more changes in the Affordable Care Act— beyond repealing the medical device tax— such as redefining what constitutes full-time work to lessen the law's burden on businesses. Holler went further: "A Republican-controlled Congress has to reaffirm its position that Obamacare needs to be repealed," the Journal reported.

A gradual shift to the right may be the best Republicans can hope for given that they probably will not capture 60 seats necessary to prevail over Democratic procedural maneuvering on nearly all legislation, according to the Journal.

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