As today’s Capital Journal column notes, some senators from both parties are urging that colleagues in the newly Republican-controlled Senate resist the urge to seek revenge over past political grievances and instead work together now.
For example, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of the Republican leadership, said in an interview that he thinks his party can return the Senate to “regular order” and start right away getting bills moving out of committees with votes from both parties.
“If they come out of the committees with bipartisan support, they are going to come to the floor with bipartisan support, and will get to the president because they have bipartisan support,” he said.
Democrats as well as Republicans want the system to once again work that way, which would mean at least some productive activity in the next two years.
But elsewhere, and in both parties, the temptation to turn the next two years into a holding pattern while waiting on the prospect of an improved political situation after a big national election two years from now already is taking hold.
Democrats look to 2016 and see a presidential election in which their national coalition will be more powerful than it is during a low-turnout midterm election such as the one just seen. Younger and minority voters will turn out in greater numbers for a presidential election, the idea goes, and will not only place a newly empowered Democrat in the White House but restore a Democratic majority in the Senate.
Certainly, in a reversal of this year’s situation, the Senate election map looks a lot more favorable for Democrats than for Republicans in 2016. Then, 24 Republican senators will have to defend their seats, compared to just 10 Democrats. And the Republicans will have to win not just in the kinds of deep-red states that dominated this year’s map, but in swing states such as New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio.
Among conservatives and Republicans, similar visions of the post-2016 future also are taking hold. A long Twitter exchange among conservative thinkers broke out this week, prompted by an assertion that those on the right shouldn’t fight President Barack Obama‘s pending executive order on immigration policy, in which he is expected to change deportation practices on his own authority and without congressional approval. Instead, the argument went, conservatives should grudgingly accept the precedent and wait until a conservative president can do the same thing to unilaterally enact policies approved by those on the right.
That prompted Charles C.W. Cooke to respond with a piece on National Review that urged fellow conservatives to resist that urge, writing that “I can under no circumstances look forward to a system in which the executive may pick and choose which laws he is prepared to enforce.”
Still, no less an establishment figure than Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah expressed similar sentiments in a Washington speech late last week. Now that Republicans are in charge of the Senate, he argued, they shouldn’t revoke a procedure Democrats enacted that blocks filibusters on judicial and other executive branch nominees, one Republicans resisted mightily. Instead, Sen. Hatch argued, Republicans should instead win back the presidency in 2016 and use the new procedure to their advantage when a GOP president is the one making the nominations.
The prospect of a big and consequential 2016 election eventually will come to dominate political life. But for those who have a real stake in action now—and that includes President Obama as well as Republican congressional leaders Mitch McConnell in the Senate and John Boehner in the House—it appears one of their many challenges will be trying to convince their charges to put that off, at least for a while.