The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll is filled with signs that the government shutdown damaged the GOP’s ability to win back the Senate, while giving Democrats an outside chance at contesting the House.
— The most important poll numbers in the battle for Congress are the president’s approval rating and the generic Congressional ballot. President Obama‘s approval numbers inched up to 47%, Democrats now hold an eight-point lead (largest since Oct. 2009) on their version of the generic ballot, and Obamacare approval got a bounce despite its implementation problems. Voters blame Republicans for the shutdown over Obama by a whopping 22-point margin.
— Context is important. The Democrats’ +8 edge, if it holds, probably wouldn’t be enough to retake the House. Dems held larger advantage in the wave years of 2008 (D+12) and 2006 (D+15), facing a more favorable landscape. In the Senate, nearly every competitive race is taking place in a world apart, in states Mitt Romney comfortably carried. Regardless, even in deep-red states, running as a member of the House won’t be easy. (We’re looking at you, Steve Daines, Bill Cassidy and Tom Cotton.)
— The biggest loss for Republicans is their opportunity cost. The GOP could have used the disastrous health care exchange launch as a lesson to convincing soft Obamacare supporters that the law wasn’t working. In the GOP-friendly Senate battlegrounds, the message would have found a receptive audience. Instead, there’s anecdotal evidence voters are now blaming the exchange problems on the shutdown itself.
If the midterms were held today, it would still be a status quo election with probable Democratic House gains and the party holding a slightly-smaller majority in the Senate. But all bets are off if there’s a debt default. That’s why Republicans are scrambling to make a deal.
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"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.