Friday, November 7, 2014

Republicans Conquer the Senate

My article from the Nov. 5, 2014 issue of FrontPage magazine:

Republicans Conquer the Senate

By Matthew Vadum

Republicans wrested control of the U.S. Senate from Democrats last night, setting the stage for potentially dramatic legislative showdowns with President Obama during the final two years of his already-catastrophic presidency.

After a GOP electoral wave wiped out several Democratic senators who supported Obamacare, around 11:15 p.m. Eastern time major media outlets projected Republicans would hold at least 51 seats in the Senate in January. In the approaching 114th Congress both chambers will be under GOP control and in a position to hinder Obama’s agenda if lawmakers so choose. It also clears the way for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to become the Senate’s first Republican majority leader since Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) left the post at the beginning of 2007.

The first big confrontation between Obama and Congress, a massively unpopular immigration amnesty that could trigger a major constitutional crisis, is already on its way. Several hours before the first polls closed in the East, ABC News reported that White House officials said the president would move forward with an executive order on immigration reform “no matter how big a shellacking Democrats” got Tuesday.

And what a shellacking Democrats received.

In Arkansas challenger Tom Cotton (R) picked off incumbent Mark Pryor (D). In Colorado Cory Gardner (R) defeated incumbent Mark Udall (D).

In Georgia, David Perdue (R) dispatched Michelle Nunn (D). Perdue garnered more than 50 percent of the vote, thereby avoiding a runoff election. The seat is currently held by retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R).

In Iowa Joni Ernst (R) triumphed over Bruce Braley (D), a sitting congressman. The seat is now held by retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D). In Kansas, incumbent Pat Roberts (R) beat back a fierce challenge from Greg Orman, an Independent with close ties to Democrats.

In the Bluegrass State, incumbent Mitch McConnell (R) easily bested challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), Kentucky’s current secretary of state. Grimes refused in the closing days of the campaign to say if she voted for Obama for president.

In Montana Steve Daines (R) defeated extreme-left candidate Amanda Curtis (D). The seat is now held by John Walsh (D) who was embroiled in a plagiarism scandal.

Incumbent Jeanne Shaheen (D) in New Hampshire fended off a challenge from Scott Brown (R) who represented Massachusetts in the Senate from 2010 to 2013.

North Carolina incumbent Kay Hagan (D) was taken out by Thom Tillis (R). South Carolina’s Tim Scott (R) triumphed over Joyce Dickerson (D) to become the first popularly elected black senator in the South elected since Reconstruction.

In West Virginia U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) beat Natalie Tennant (D) to take the seat of retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D).

Some races were unresolved at press time. Incumbent Mark Warner (D) and Ed Gillespie were separated by only 12,000 votes in Virginia. Results were not yet available in the showdown between Alaska’s Dan Sullivan (R) and incumbent Mark Begich (D).

In the House, Republicans added to their majority.

In New York’s 21st district, which borders Vermont to the East and Canada to the North and West, Elisa Stefanik (R) defeated Aaron Woolf (D). At age 30, Stefanik becomes the youngest woman to win a seat in the U.S. House, shattering the previous record set in 1973 by then-31 year old Elizabeth Holtzman, a Democrat, also from New York State.

Despite the larger GOP majority, it is far from certain if John Boehner (R-Ohio) will keep his job as Speaker of the House in January. There was a half-hearted challenge to Boehner’s leadership in January 2013. Conservative lawmakers are much angrier now after Boehner spent the past two years largely ignoring their concerns, and other candidates for his job may emerge.

Conservatives have fired early warning shots across the GOP establishment’s bow. Right-leaning lawmakers intend to press a wish list for the new GOP-controlled Senate after two years of obstruction by outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). On the list is Obamacare repeal, border security, work for welfare requirements, and approval of the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Conservatives were enraged when earlier in the election cycle the GOP establishment targeted insurgent, Tea Party-backed conservatives for defeat, throwing the full force of the party apparatus at those who challenged sitting Republican lawmakers. However, not a single Senate challenge to any Republican incumbents succeeded.

Republicans enjoyed great success in governor races across the nation.

There were three shocking upsets. Charlie Baker (R) defeated Martha Coakley (D) in the Massachusetts governor’s race. In Illinois incumbent Pat Quinn (D) fell to challenger Bruce Rauner (R) and in Maryland Lieutenant Gov. Anthony Brown (D) was taken out by Larry Hogan (R). The current governor of Maryland is term-limited Martin O’Malley, a Democrat with presidential ambitions.

In Wisconsin incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R) outlasted challenger Mary Burke (D). In Florida incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R) thumped former Gov. Charlie Crist (D). In Kansas incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback (R) fended off a strong challenge from Paul Davis (D).

In New Mexico incumbent Gov. Susana Martinez (R), a rising star in the GOP, crushed Gary King (D). In Texas Greg Abbott (R) whooped abortion evangelist Wendy Davis (D).

Colorado incumbent John Hickenlooper (D) was locked in a close contest with Bob Beauprez (R) at press time.
All in all, it was a great night for Republicans, but not necessarily for conservatives.

No one expects Senate Republicans to do much of anything other than to meekly oppose President Obama’s agenda and pay lip service to repealing Obamacare, a radical left-wing instrument of socioeconomic leveling posing as a health care system.

McConnell, who has been promising for the past two years to repeal Obamacare “root and branch,” is signaling resignation. In 2012 McConnell said that Obamacare could be repealed with 51 votes through the budget reconciliation process because it was passed that way. However, last week McConnell said that he will not press for full Obamacare repeal in the incoming Congress. “It would take 60 votes in the Senate. Nobody thinks we’re going to have 60 Republicans and it would take a presidential signature. No one thinks we’re going to get that.” Instead, he wants to propose votes on the repeal of unpopular parts of the statute “and see if we can put it on the president’s desk.”

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who easily won reelection yesterday, has warmed up to the proposed so-called DREAM Act which would provide amnesty for young illegal aliens. Last week Cornyn said that illegal immigrant DREAMers who “are guilty of nothing other than coming with their family” ought to be allowed to “serve in the military” and “earn American citizenship.”

Both McConnell and House Speaker Boehner have sent mixed messages on amnesty for illegal aliens even though lawmakers have repeatedly refused to grant the amnesties that Obama seeks.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus predicted last week that a GOP-controlled Senate would stop Obama’s “un-American” amnesty. “It’s unconstitutional, illegal, and we don’t support it,” Priebus said.

Obama may not wait for the new Congress to be seated before he takes executive action to deal with the estimated 11 million illegal aliens in the country.

“White House officials are saying that you can expect the president to set an aggressive, and defiant tone [Wednesday],” ABC’s Jon Karl reported yesterday. “You’re not going to see any mea culpas, no big firings, no change in direction.”

Karl added, “officials tell me the president is prepared to aggressively pursue his agenda using his power of executive authority, where he can’t work with Congress, and the big one is going to be on immigration reform.”

A large-scale amnesty would be a profoundly cynical move that would reward lawbreaking and beget future immigration amnesties. It would also spell electoral doom for the Republican Party in coming years because Latinos, who are believed to comprise the bulk of the illegals, have traditionally shown a strong preference for the Democratic Party and its left-of-center public policies.

Whether Republicans will stand up to President Obama is an open question.

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