Could Senate Republicans Work Together as a Majority?

Recent fractures in the House GOP raise questions if the party wins control of the upper chamber.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) shares remarks at Girl Scouts At 100: The Launch of ToGetHerThere at Capitol Hill Cannon House Office Bldg, Caucus Room on February 1, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Girl Scouts of America)
National Journal
Michael Catalini
March 4, 2014, 4:49 p.m.

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans be­lieve their chances of re­tak­ing the up­per cham­ber have nev­er looked bet­ter, as the fa­vor­able elect­or­al map has stead­ily im­proved.

Yet if they do win in Novem­ber, Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans must con­front a sig­ni­fic­ant ques­tion: Will the same di­vi­sions that racked the House Re­pub­lic­an ma­jor­ity be­fall them?

In­deed, Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans have had their share of di­vi­sions. From the shut­down to the debt ceil­ing, dis­agree­ments among mem­bers have spilled in­to the open. As one GOP Sen­ate aide put it, could a ma­jor­ity that con­tains Susan Collins of Maine and Ted Cruz of Texas come to­geth­er on key le­gis­la­tion?

Of course it’s early still, and the be­ne­fits of hav­ing a ma­jor­ity are in­dis­put­able. But some House Re­pub­lic­ans say that if the GOP takes the Sen­ate, the new ma­jor­ity will have to learn from the bruis­ing in­tra­party fights that cul­min­ated dur­ing the shut­down — or suf­fer the con­sequences.

“If you’re the ma­jor­ity and you’re not on the same page, you’re hand­ing your ma­jor­ity over to the minor­ity, and you’re stronger when you stick to­geth­er and that’s been the case throughout,” said Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Pat Tiberi of Ohio.

For Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans to take the ma­jor­ity, they have to net six seats, an up­hill climb for sure. But they’re de­fend­ing 15 seats to the Demo­crats’ 21, sev­en of which are in states that Mitt Rom­ney won in 2012.

One of those states is West Vir­gin­ia, where Demo­crat­ic Sen. Jay Rock­e­feller is re­tir­ing, open­ing up the pos­sib­il­ity for Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Shel­ley Moore Capito. Though cul­tur­ally con­ser­vat­ive, West Vir­gin­ia still has Demo­crat­ic voters, a real­ity that Capito says makes her will­ing to work across the aisle. Should she win, that will­ing­ness may stand in stark con­trast to more-con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers who have less in­terest in bi­par­tis­an co­ali­tions.

“I can only speak for my­self, and I’ve al­ways been of a mind that work­ing to­geth­er is more be­ne­fi­cial for West Vir­gini­ans that would elect me than tak­ing a philo­soph­ic­al stand that’s gonna res­ult in a stale­mate,” she said.

The key for Re­pub­lic­ans will be pre­vent­ing that kind of stale­mate from hap­pen­ing with­in their own ranks, while for­cing Pres­id­ent Obama to play de­fense.

“I think it’s al­ways good to have that voice be­cause the Re­pub­lic­an Party is ex­tremely di­verse,” said Rep. Kristi Noem, a South Dakota Re­pub­lic­an. “To have every­body be a part of that nar­rat­ive is ex­tremely im­port­ant, but if we have the op­por­tun­ity to start pla­cing these bills that would fun­da­ment­ally fix a lot of the prob­lems the Amer­ic­an people are deal­ing with, Re­pub­lic­ans will join hands and do that and make sure it’s the pres­id­ent that is tak­ing the blame.”

Pla­cing the pres­id­ent in a dif­fi­cult po­s­i­tion has all but eluded con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans. “It’s not easy, ob­vi­ously,” Tiberi said. “We haven’t seen that it’s easy here.”

They made it harder for them­selves by dis­agree­ing in­tern­ally over tac­tics. In the Sen­ate, Cruz clashed re­cently with Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell over a pro­ced­ur­al vote on the debt ceil­ing, for in­stance. The res­ult has been a vic­tory for Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id and the White House.

“Right now we’re rendered some­what in­ef­fect­ive in that we have a couple hun­dred bills that are sit­ting in the Sen­ate that they’re not go­ing to take up,” said Rep. Kev­in Yo­der, a Kan­sas Re­pub­lic­an.

But will tak­ing over the Sen­ate res­ult in a more ef­fect­ive Re­pub­lic­an ma­jor­ity?

“It changes the dy­nam­ic sig­ni­fic­antly with a Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate,” said Rep. Tom Price of Geor­gia. “We can put bills on the pres­id­ent’s desk, and he will have to veto them in­stead of just say­ing he doesn’t like them.”

Wheth­er Re­pub­lic­an di­vi­sions will al­low them to do that re­mains an open ques­tion, but Price sug­ges­ted if the choice is work­ing with a Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate or a frac­tious Re­pub­lic­an ma­jor­ity, the pref­er­ence is clear.

“It will cer­tainly be easi­er than with Harry Re­id,” he said.

What We're Following See More »
FRENCH IS A LAWYER, VETERAN
Kristol Recruiting National Review’s David French for Third-Party Run
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Two Republicans intimately familiar with Bill Kristol’s efforts to recruit an independent presidential candidate to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have told Bloomberg Politics that the person Kristol has in mind is David French -- whose name the editor of the Weekly Standard floated in the current issue of the magazine.

French is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to the website of National Review, where French is a staff writer, he is a constitutional lawyer, a recipient of the Bronze Star, and an author of several books who lives in Columbia, Tenn., with his wife Nancy and three children."

Source:
CALIFORNIA VOTES IN A WEEK
Jerry Brown Backs Clinton
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

California Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed Hillary Clinton today, calling her "the only path forward to win the presidency and stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump." While praising Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign, Brown said "Clinton’s lead is insurmountable and Democrats have shown – by millions of votes – that they want her as their nominee. ... This is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other. The general election has already begun."

Source:
GLASS CEILING STILL HARD TO CRACK
Clinton Says Voters Still Hung Up on Gender
7 hours ago
THE LATEST

In a New York Magazine profile, Hillary Clinton said she still encounters misogyny at her own events: “‘I really admire you, I really like you, I just don’t know if I can vote for a woman to be president.’ I mean, they come to my events and then they say that to me.”

Source:
CHANGE WE CAN’T BELIEVE IN
Trump Vows Not to Change
7 hours ago
THE LATEST
Source:
FILING DEADLINE IS JUNE 24
McConnell Urging Rubio to Run for Reelection
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: "One of the things that I’m hoping, I and my colleagues have been trying to convince Senator Marco Rubio to run again in Florida. He had indicated he was not going to, but we’re all hoping that he’ll reconsider, because poll data indicates that he is the one who can win for us. He would not only save a terrific senator for the Senate, but help save the majority. ... Well, I hope so. We’re all lobbying hard for him to run again."

Source:
×