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Political Armageddon Looms for Democrats: The Consequences Of An All-Too-Likely Republican Senate

By Seth D. Michaels
When 2015 rolls around, will an all-Republican-controlled 114th Congress come with it? It pains me to say it, but I wouldn’t want to bet much against it. A Republican takeover of the Senate is quite likely, and the outcome would be pretty dreadful.


So you don’t need to speculate about what their legislative priorities would look like. We’ve seen their votes.

Those votes include the Paul Ryan budget with its huge cuts to safety-net programs and fundamental changes to Medicare. It includes a bevy of limits on access to abortion and birth control, harsh and punitive measures aimed at immigrants and lower-income people who get public assistance, and repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. And it includes a whole lot of ideological grandstanding, including, most recently, the attempt to sue the President. Thanks to the need to negotiate with a Democratic Senate, the House Republicans’ worst impulses are constrained, at the moment.

A case study for what bigger Republican legislative majorities are likely to do comes out of North Carolina, where Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the state House, is in a very close race against Sen. Kay Hagan. There, unified Republican control resulted in policies that massively redistribute power from poorer to richer, including unemployment insurance cuts, restrictions on voting rights, and a shift in the tax burden from income to sales taxes. Other Republican state legislatures, including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Kansas, have used the power they emerged with after 2010 to pursue ideological pet projects.

John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy are the ostensible leaders of the House Republicans. The agenda for the caucus, though, is set by its rightmost members. This bloc has frequently thrown D.C. into chaos, scuttling Boehner’s efforts at deal-making and pulling policy to the right. A Republican Senate majority would face similar pressures. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is working to build himself into the leader of the hard Republican right in Washington, driving the October 2013 shutdown and helping organize resistance to Boehner’s proposed border bill. What would he attempt to do as part of a Senate majority?

GOP control of the House has meant a weaker economy. Standoffs over government funding and the debt ceiling are routine. The 2011 debt-ceiling fight led to completely unnecessary sequestration cuts. We’ve seen chaos in federal contracts and furloughs for federal employees. “Cut and grow” economics has been a sick joke. Food stamps have been cut and unemployment insurance extensions have lapsed. Time and time again, Republicans have thrown anchors to the recovery.

The next debt ceiling increase is expected to be necessary on March 15, 2015. Mitch McConnell has already committed thoroughly to the lie that raising the debt ceiling is a favor to Obama that requires concessions on Obama’s part. What will be the ransom demands next time?

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