Despite suggestions from some analysts that Republican control of the Senate is just around the corner, the experts at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics have gamed out the next three elections and determined that the Democrats will hang on by a thread.
And that could lead to an tumultuous era of political battles that will likely lead Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” to brush aside GOP filibusters, especially if the next president makes a provocative nomination, such as “President Elizabeth Warren” naming Barack Obama to the Supreme Court after he leaves the White House in 2017.
“Those Senate confirmation battles for the new president are going to fun, huh?” said UVa’s Kyle Kondik, the congressional analyst for Larry Sabato’s political team. “Especially when President Ted Cruz appoints Sen. Rand Paul as secretary of state, or President Elizabeth Warren names former President Obama to the Supreme Court.” He added: “Yes, we’re being intentionally provocative here.”
His analysis isn’t meant to be intentionally provocative, but it will be because there have been a slew of reports recently that the Republicans are poised to take back control of the Senate and install Sen. Mitch McConnell in the majority leader’s office.
Kondik first looked at the upcoming 2014 races, where the GOP has the best chance to win enough seats to take control. His analysis suggests that the election will show strong Republican gains because there is an overwhelming number of Democratic seats up for election, but leave the Senate split 50-50. Since Democratic Vice President Joe Biden will be the tie-breaker, Reid and his team keep control.
Moving on to 2016, Kondik finds more GOP seats up for grabs and that, he suggests, will lead to a slight Democratic gain that will give the party a 52-48 edge.
Crystal-balling into 2018, he suggests a clawback by the GOP, but to a 50-50 tie, leaving the majority in the hands of which party wins the White House in 2016.
Of course many things can change the outcomes of the coming elections, but one thing is sure, according to Kondik. Control of the Senate will continue to be razor thin and if the minority party steps up the use of filibusters, the majority party is likely to throw in the towel of cooperation and end the practice of requiring 60 votes to move forward with a presidential nomination.
“There are three things we do know: The Democrats are overextended on the 2014 map, which probably means the Republicans should, at the very least, make a dent in the Democratic Senate majority next year. Two years later, the Republicans will be defending a map on which they are overextended, which could help the Democrats make up for some of their possible 2014 losses. And then the Democrats are overextended again in 2018,” wrote Kondik.
“All of which suggests that 60-vote Senate majorities are going to be elusive for either party, and future Senate majority leaders, be they Democrats or Republicans, are going to be continually tempted by some form of the “nuclear option” in limiting the filibuster. Given its rapidly increasing use, future Senate majorities — maybe even as soon as this one — might decide they have little choice but to reach for the button.”