With con­trol comes new pres­sure to gov­ern well

GOP tasked with job cre­ation, tax cuts and end­ing Oba­macare

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - NATION+WORLD - By Erica Werner

For Repub­li­cans, there will be no one left to blame.

As they pre­pare to take con­trol of the White House and both cham­bers of Congress next year, Repub­li­cans are cel­e­brat­ing the op­por­tu­nity to en­act a new agenda for the coun­try, in­clud­ing low­er­ing taxes, se­cur­ing the bor­der and re­peal­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care law.

But with that op­por­tu­nity comes mas­sive po­lit­i­cal risk: If Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans don’t de­liver, they will face a se­ri­ous reck­on­ing with vot­ers. That could be­gin with the 2018 midterm elec­tions, when ev­ery House mem­ber and one-third of the Se­nate will be up for re-elec­tion.

“The Amer­i­can pub­lic has clearly said that they want to go a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion,” said Repub­li­can Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado. “And if we are not ef­fec­tive in mov­ing in that dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion, they will take the op­por­tu­nity away from us, and they will re­turn it to the Democrats.”

Said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, speak­ing Fri­day at the Fed­er­al­ist So­ci­ety: “It’s time to put up or shut up. There are no ex­cuses.”

That sober­ing re­al­ity has been sink­ing in for GOP mem­bers of the House and Se­nate as they be­gin the early stages of plan­ning an agenda for next year.

Repub­li­cans point out that although they will con­trol a ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate with 52 votes, that’s well short of the 60-vote su­per­ma­jor­ity needed to ad­vance most ma­jor ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing Supreme Court nom­i­nees. So although Repub­li­cans would be able to use a leg­isla­tive ma­neu­ver to send a health care re­peal to Trump’s desk with just a sim­ple ma­jor­ity, other ma­jor ob­jec­tives, in­clud­ing im­mi­gra­tion and bor­der en­force­ment, would re­quire some de­gree of co­op­er­a­tion from mi­nor­ity Democrats.

That could give Se­nate Democrats’ new leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, veto power over ma­jor chunks of Trump’s agenda. And it’s led to a call from some House Repub­li­cans for their Se­nate col­leagues to try to push through a rules change to elim­i­nate the 60-vote fil­i­buster bar­rier.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., is an in­sti­tu­tion­al­ist who has shown no en­thu­si­asm for such a move. But Repub­li­cans fret that a short­age of votes in the Se­nate is not likely to be a win­ning po­lit­i­cal ex­cuse to most vot­ers who picked an out­sider in Trump to bring whole­sale change to Washington.

“We can talk about not hav­ing 60 in the Se­nate, but I think that our time to show that we can gov­ern is now,” said GOP Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida.

The Repub­li­can role on health care seems par­tic­u­larly risky to some in the party. Democrats have borne se­vere po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences for push­ing through the Af­ford­able Care Act in 2010. They lost con­trol of the House in that year’s midterm elec­tions.

But if Repub­li­cans re­peal it, as they are de­ter­mined to do, they will be the ones re­spon­si­ble for what­ever comes next. And given the enor­mous com­plex­ity of the U.S. health care sys­tem, which ac­counts for fully one-sixth of the U.S. econ­omy, the po­ten­tial for com­pli­ca­tions looks im­mense. Even af­ter six years, Repub­li­cans have failed to unite around a sin­gle al­ter­na­tive to Oba­macare, or a so­lu­tion to en­sure that the 20 mil­lion Amer­i­cans who gained health cov­er­age un­der the law don’t sud­denly lose it. Schumer warned in an in­ter­view Fri­day that re­peal­ing the health care law would turn into “a po­lit­i­cal night­mare” for Repub­li­cans.

ANDREW HARNIK — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell of Ken­tucky stands with fel­low Se­nate Repub­li­can lead­ers at a news con­fer­ence on Capi­tol Hill in Washington last week fol­low­ing a closed-door Repub­li­can pol­icy lun­cheon.

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