House Republicans are set to choose a new majority leader and majority whip Thursday and the outcome of their votes is likely to shape the party's prospects for retaking the Senate in November. If Republicans regain control of the Senate, President Obama's agenda will be dead in the water for the balance of his administration. If Republicans fall short, however, even if only by one seat, then Harry Reid will continue to be the choke point between Obama and the lower chamber in Congress. In other words, it will mean two more years of the stalemate that has resulted in dozens of major pieces of legislation passed by the Republican House never even getting a floor vote in the Democratic Senate.
At the heart of the leadership votes is choosing a strategy to be followed between now and the election that will best serve the GOP's prospects. On the one hand, the thinking is to play it safe in hopes that voter dissatisfaction with Obama's foreign policy fumbling, the stagnant economy and Obamacare will do the trick. Following the play-it-safe strategy means minimizing confrontations with the Senate and Obama that highlight the present inability of the Republican House to force the Democrats to compromise. That means forgetting for now trying to cut federal spending, repealing any of Obama's regulatory onslaught or repairing the damage his ineptitude has done to the nation's standing in the world. Call it the stand-pat-and-pray plan. This is approach is epitomized by the early frontrunner, Kevin McCarthy of California.
|The House Appropriations Committee is considering a measure to slash the IRS budget by $1.5 billion, thus reducing it to its 2008 levels.|
The alternative approach is to seek out bills that provide House Republicans with opportunities to highlight for voters how things would be different if Obama is forced to deal with two chambers controlled by the GOP. Call it the compare and confront plan, which would be embraced by a conservative like Raul Labrador of Idaho or some other right-leaning lawmaker who tries to electrify the House with a late bid.
For example, the House Appropriations Committee is considering a measure to slash the IRS budget by $1.5 billion, thus reducing it to its 2008 levels. As the Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard reported Tuesday, “the goal is to keep the tax agency focused on its core duties,' and eliminate efforts to judge the political activities of tax-exempt groups and brake its implementation of Obamacare.” Passage of the measure would also be a major step forward in restoring the credibility of congressional oversight by reminding Obama that the Constitution gave the power of the purse to the House, not the White House.
But what would happen next would be largely determined by the leaders chosen Thursday. Under the stand-pat-and-pray strategy, the IRS budget cuts might never get beyond the appropriations committee. And even if the full House did approve the cuts, the Senate would demand they be removed from the inevitable continuing resolution in October. Nothing would change.
Under the compare-and-confront approach, after approving the IRS cuts the Senate ignores, the House would send the upper chamber a new bill cutting the IRS budget an additional $1 billion and all government employee salaries, including the Congress, by 10 percent. Such toughness would reassure voters that Republicans are serious about ending business-as-usual in the nation’s capital. That’s the decision to be made Thursday.