The number of legislative days left before the pre-election Congressional adjournment continues to diminish and Congress shows no signs of undertaking any major undertakings before the election. While the House of Representatives has focused attention on choosing new Leadership after the Primary defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continues to avoid consideration of substantive measures, trying to move legislation without allowing Republican amendments.
This past week, House Republicans chose Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as Majority Leader taking Congressman Cantor’s place as the floor leader and then replaced McCarthy, who previously had served as Majority Whip, with Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA). Scalise has deep ties to the Republican Study Committee – representing the large number of conservatives in the Republican Caucus.
In addition to the internal rumblings in Congress, the Administration is consumed with a number of adverse major world events such as Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, the Bergdahl swap and Russian adventures. In addition, the investigations of the IRS and its disclosures of “computer crashes” and the EPA issuing green house gas restrictions has push relations with Congress into a nadir.
Election Year Politics
Election year politics dominate Capitol Hill. The political parties and their leadership are lining up for the fall congressional elections. Aspiring national figures, political consultants, pundits, financiers, special interest groups and the media getting behind candidates, speculating about winners and losers, join them.
Most of the attention is focused on control of the Senate where there are thought to be six “tossup” races where incumbents are in danger of defeat: Pryor (D- AR), Udall (D-Co). McConnell (R-KY), Landrieu (D-LA), Hagan (D-NC), and Begich (AK). In addition, there are contested races for open seats in Michigan (D), Iowa (D) and Georgia (R). Since Republicans are heavily favored to pick up two Democrat seats in South Dakota and West Virginia plus a possible pickup in Montana, getting to the magic number of six pickups is tantalizing close for Republicans.
Uniting both Houses of Congress will have an enormous impact. Like the pent up frustration exhibited by Congressional Democrats in 2009, Republican control likely means a flurry of activity trying to undo a number of programs, attempts to curb regulatory expansion and an exercise of fiscal restraint. Even so it is also unlikely such activity will have much effect with Mr. Obama still in office, the legislative activity will be aimed at setting the stage for the 2016 Presidential election and as a venue for conservative activists to vent their views.
For the Administration, the installation of a Republican Congress means whatever influence possessed will further diminish and will diminish rapidly. That does not lessen the importance of the Presidency but it means a very tough last two years in office with little opportunity to achieve legislative successes.