GOP, Democrats Dump Divisive Issues in Advance of Elections

Wednesday, 12 Feb 2014 11:31 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The Republican Party is seeking victory in this year's elections by clearing the road of  political problems that could stand in its path to recapturing the Senate and strengthening its majority in the House.

Democrats are also gearing up for the election by dumping issues, or getting them out of the way early, that could cost them races in the November elections, The Hill reported.

House Speaker John Boehner’s support of a clean debt-ceiling bill on Tuesday, along with other leading GOP members in the lower chamber, was believed to be a calculated move to allow the party to concentrate on emphasizing the troubled Obamacare launch during midterm election campaigns.

Boehner does not want a repeat before November of the conservative rebellion that led to 16-day government shutdown in October, which resulted in historically low approval ratings for the GOP.

He’s hoping that voters will focus on the ongoing failures of President Barack Obama’s signature health reform law and not the differences within the GOP over the budget deficits and other issues.

Nicolle Wallace, former communications chief for President George W. Bush, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV that Republicans"will be judged by too many voters as responsible" for these problems.

"We have such important elections on the horizon," she said Tuesday. "These midterm elections are much more important for our party than theirs. We have much more at stake."

Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, an influential Republican leader, said, "From the point of view of the House Republicans, one of their considerations is not to draw attention from the economic problems and the healthcare problems created by the president’s healthcare law."

GOP members in the Senate are following suit. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is facing a tough re-election battle, recently said that the contentious GOP issue of immigration is likely to be off the table this year.

McConnell said that the differences between Republicans and Democrats over immigration reform are "irresolvable." But, according to The Hill, GOP strategists say that the last thing that Republican candidates need before an election is internal squabbling over immigration.

"The pattern has always been closer to the election, the less controversial activity takes place," said Stuart Roy, a Republican strategist who has worked for Senate and House GOP leaders. "Instead of happening a few months out from the election, now we’re seeing the entire legislative year becoming a legislative and regulatory graveyard."

Democrats are also looking ahead to the midterm elections by holding up bills, or pushing through issues now, that could cause problems in the elections.

Although Obama vowed during his State of the Union speech to enact legislation giving the White House more authority on trade agreements, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada quickly stepped in to hold up the plan, which labor unions strongly oppose because it could cost them jobs and hurt them financially.

Republican pundits also say that Obama’s decision to delay the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act until 2016 was to prevent the GOP from attacking the measure if he’d made the change later in the year. The mandate requires employers with 50 to 99 employees to enroll their staff in Obamacare or face a fine.

Roy said, "Any negative impact of the employer mandate, in terms of companies changing or dropping insurance coverage, those notices would have gone out to employees in some fashion prior to the election and caused problems and turmoil. Delaying the employer mandate [now] is absolutely tied to November."

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, is also likely to steer clear of putting up any new budget resolutions this year because of potential political minefields they could create in November, The Hill quotes Democratic aides as saying.

Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former senior aide to Reid, said, "The annual budget process has become nothing more than an excuse to craft 30-second attack ads. Each year we’ve done that, there’s plenty of pain to be spread around, especially for those up for re-election."

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