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A GOP Senate Would Battle Obama on the Surface, But Itself Within

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As President Obama crisscrossed the country over the summer, he repeatedly warned his town hall audiences that the direction of the country is at stake in the upcoming midterm elections. "You have to put the car in 'D' to go forward, and put it in 'R' if you want to go in reverse," he riffed.

The "R," of course, stood for Republican, and the scenario the president was describing was what would happen if the GOP retakes control of the House or Senate in November.

Although a Republican House seems more likely than a GOP Senate, Republican strategists still say they can draw a plausible path to winning the 10 Senate seats necessary to retake the upper chamber.

In addition to necessary victories by moderates like Carly Fiorina from California, they say the freshman class of ten or more would also include a crop of true limited-government conservatives like Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has suggested eliminating the Departments of Education and Energy; Mike Lee from Utah, who advocates revisiting the 14th and 17th Amendments to the Constitution that deal with citizenship and states' rights; Alaska's Joe Miller, who told "Face the Nation" on Sunday that he believes unemployment benefits are unconstitutional; and Marco Rubio of Florida, who has consistently campaigned on repealing the recently passed health care law.

The result of the new blood, say senators, staffers and congressional scholars, would be a Republican caucus that is far more conservative than it is today, leading an assault on the Obama administration's agenda on the outside, while it faces a potential civil war within.

Without even gaveling into session, Senate-watchers say Day One of a Republican-led Senate would mean the legislative death of anything left on the wish lists of special-interest groups aligned with Democrats, such as the Employee Free Choice Act (the union-backed item known as "card check"); climate change legislation with a cap-and-trade mechanism; comprehensive immigration reform; and Don't Ask Don't Tell, if the Senate fails to pass it this year.

Also in danger would be portions of the health care reform bill passed into law in 2010, which Republicans have repeatedly promised to "repeal and replace," and possibly the most treasured -- but increasingly controversial -- form of legislating: the congressional earmark.

"What do Americans want? They want the size of the government reduced, they want wasteful Washington spending eliminated, they want legitimate functions for them," Sen. Tom Coburn told Politics Daily when asked about the effect of more Republicans joining the Senate in 2011. "We ought to give them the government that they want rather than the government that politicians want. I think lots of things will change that will be positive."

In addition to the early changes in the legislative agenda of a GOP Senate, every Senate committee would get a new chairman, who could significantly alter the direction of his or her new panel.

For example, a Democratic loss in November would move Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) into the chairman's role atop the Senate Armed Services Committee now occupied by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). While Levin has argued in favor of transitioning responsibilities in the Afghanistan War to the Afghans more quickly and has been a champion of repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, McCain has fought bitterly with Levin over both. A Chairman McCain would be a hawkish presence in charge of the committee that will oversee the Pentagon and any future American military action, including in Iran.

Another key change in leadership would be on the Finance Committee, where Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) would likely hold the gavel during debates on tax cuts, tax hikes, health care reform, and any changes to Medicare and Medicaid. Although Hatch is known as a deal-maker who worked with no less a liberal lion than the late Ted Kennedy, Hatch is up for reelection in 2012. His fellow Utah Republican, Bob Bennett, was sent packing by local Republican activists this year who considered Bennett insufficiently conservative.

A GOP Senate would also likely see Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) heading the Environment and Public Works Committee and Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) take over the Energy panel. Inhofe and Burr would be the first senators to weigh in on any climate change proposals from the White House, a scenario made predictably awkward by Inhofe's famous declaration that global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." For his part, Burr has said he wants to reduce American dependence on foreign oil by expanding deep-water offshore drilling and nuclear power capabilities domestically.

Finally, the Senate Judiciary Committee led by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) would be far more aggressive overseeing and investigating the Obama administration than that of the current Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and would give any future Supreme Court picks a much tougher grilling than the mostly perfunctory hearings that Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan enjoyed under Leahy's direction.

Overseeing it all will likely be the current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is poised to become the Senate majority leader if the GOP takes back the chamber in November. But Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, noted that the influx of Tea Party conservatives endorsed by South Carolina's Jim DeMint could create a new and difficult dynamic within the GOP.

"The DeMint Caucus, as it might be called, will swell to a half dozen or more, creating perhaps as many problems for Mitch McConnell as for Barack Obama," Ornstein predicted. "If McConnell, like Gingrich in 1996, sees it in his and the GOP's self interest to cooperate and compromise with Obama -- he may face a revolt inside his own party."

DeMint has said he has no interest in taking over the Senate from McConnell, but he had no problem publicly chastising or even opposing his fellow Republicans for failing to live up to what he sees as the principles of the Republican Party.

In an interview with CBN on Friday, DeMint said getting along with his GOP colleagues is not his goal. "Sometimes you have to stir things up to get things moving in the right direction," DeMint said. "And frankly, I believe that when our party was in the majority, Americans trusted us. We betrayed that trust and I don't want to ask people again for the majority if I'm not certain that the people who are calling themselves Republicans are going to stand up for the principles we say we believe in."

Dick Armey, the former House majority leader who now heads up FreedomWorks and is closely aligned with the Tea Party candidates, praised the potential senators that DeMint has championed and predicted that the new crop of GOP senators will change the behavior of the Senate they join, and not the other way around.

"They're coming here as a consequence of disaffection with the good-old-boy, get-along establishment behavior," Armey said. "That's going to have a sobering effect on the other members of Congress and in the Senate."

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390 Comments

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Mark

I LOVE the cartoons! However, my only problem with them is that some days, you show none at all, and other days, you show the same one........... over and over again....... there are a lot of people that love seeing them....... but please.. could you change them a little more frequently?

September 30 2010 at 6:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vallesula

When you apply for a job, your future employer TELLS you what's expected of you; he'll even provide you with a job description, and if you don't deliver, it's adios- plain and simple. We-the-people are politicians employers, and we pay their salaries with our tax dollars - ok,so we all know that, but then answer me this, why is it, when they come to us looking for the job, THEY tell us what they will do if they're given the job; we-the-people DON'T give them a job description TELLING them what we expect of them once in Washington, but INSTEAD, they are the ones that give us a PROMISSARY NOTE ( they provide the employer with a job description, if you will )that TELLS US , if hired, what they will do for us. PEOPLE , JUST WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE AND, IS IT ANY WONDER, ONCE HIRED, WE- their employer - GO HOME AND PRAY TO GOD THEY'LL DO THE RIGHT THING. CHANGES : unless we change our hiring practicies,we're just kidding ourselves.

September 26 2010 at 1:31 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
linmarco

People say they want change. BULL! If they do they want evolutionary change. They also want it either free or cheap. They say they want smaller government that doesn't overtax them. Bull again. Ever think what would happen if all facets of government except the military and judicial systems were privatized? Think about it. People want government in and out of their lives when it suits them. Imagine hurricanes Rita, Katrina, or Ike without federal assistance. Finally they say they want to change Washington. Now just how do they propose to do that? Their answer is to vote in members from the two major political parties. Well now they are the culprits whose hands have been active in causing most of the problems facing this country. When I see Libertarians, Green Party, Constitution Party, and other different political entities taking ther seats in Washington then I'll know they want change.

September 25 2010 at 10:48 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to linmarco's comment
ialbel

Keep your head in the sand. I notice you did not ention the Tea Party. Your omissions speaks volumes and the deafness and blindness you exhibit can only be matched by the very president of the US who also does not hear or see the outrage, anger and dispair with the current two party miscreants who populate DC. When you see the Kennedy seat go to any republican there is the smell of change in the air ...and not the "Hype and Change" stench we have been subjected to these two years. As a libertarian I welcome any election that undermines the social upheavel spewed on this nation by our left wing hate mongers.

September 25 2010 at 9:57 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
danbol1237

Help me out here. Is anyone on either side of the aisle listening to the people? What the people want is nothing more then what Mr. Obama promised them,a more transparent government. What is so hard about that? I'll tell you. Look at just a few measures that were in front of the Senate recently. Why was the “don’t ask don’t tell” provision hidden in a large defense spending bill? Why was the Dream immigration policy a rider on a bill, instead of a straight up or down vote on that issue only? The Congress is afraid to take a stand so the folks back home can see where they clearly stand.

September 23 2010 at 10:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
sysaphus71

Listen,...old guard, you screwed up last time because you wouldn't stop the spending but you're a million times better than the dems....so don't screw it up this time and listen to the young turks.....they have a plan ....just listen to them this time and DON'T SPEND SO DARN MUCH MONEY....and maybe you will be around to do some good for a while this time.

September 22 2010 at 8:08 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
nbk4real

What a disgusting thought, the very culprits who got this nation in the mess its in back at the wheel...its sad Americans are so short term memory, funny how they forgot who lied us into two occupations on a chinese credit card, who gave two tax cuts to the top 1% while losing 700,000 jobs a month, deregulated Wall Street then came asking for 800 Billion, no strings attached, deregulated offshore drilling, reduced safety standards and gave us the Gulf disastor. And you want these people back in charge? INSANITY.

September 22 2010 at 3:24 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Welcome Dad

When are they going to learn???? The American people don't care about Republican or Democrat - they want each issue debated on it's merits as to whether it benefits the majority of Americans. They want Congressional earmarks and special-interest legislation stopped (do you hear us, Sen. Reid???) such as the Dream Act being attached to the Military Appropriations Bill. They want the pork projects to disappear, and fiscal responsibility to return. It's really so simple to fix if well-intentioned people of integrity are sent to Washington - regardless of party. FIX IT OR WE WILL FIND SOMEONE WHO WILL!

September 22 2010 at 2:53 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Welcome Dad's comment
nbk4real

yeah sure, all your going to do is put the republicans back in charge, the very party that have this nation in the mess its in.

September 22 2010 at 3:25 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Jeanne & Jack

I seriously doubt there will be any bad feelings between Republicans. The reason we are in this mess today is because Republicans didn't stand firm on small government, less taxes and less spending and let the democrats do whatever they wanted. The only two times the budget was balanced was in the 1800's before 1850 and when Newt Gingrich had his contract with America. Lets get back to that type thinking. Most productive Americans would greatly love this type of fiscal responsibility.

September 22 2010 at 11:03 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jeanne & Jack's comment
nbk4real

are you delusional? The republicans have left us with the largest deficits and have grown government the most. Thats a historical fact of record starting with Ronald Reagan. You need to do some research instead of regurgitating right wing talking points that leave reality behind.

September 22 2010 at 3:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Herb

It seems to me and others that these politicians only care about lining their pockets and friends pockets at the cost of the tax payers.Most of them speak in only lies,They all care about the environment,finding cures for ailing people,education and on and on.The bankers,oil and drug companies seem to run this country.The tax payers only seem to get screwed more and more with each passing day.Anyone trying to hang on to there home,Its strange since the banks strength comes from are tax dollars and they wont work with you and they get paid no matter what happens with their insurance on your mortgage which you pay for.Where is the help,Well hidden.Go U S A .......

September 22 2010 at 9:48 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
dccwest

So Rand Paul promises to eliminate the Dept of education and the dept of energy. This is what he is running on. It will never happen, and his supporters won't even hold him to it. That's how UNimportant issues are with the crazy republican party these days.

September 22 2010 at 9:42 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to dccwest's comment
Jim Guy

Did you know that the Dept of Education was created on Oct 17, 1979?????? Did you know that PRIOR TO THE CREATION, USA was ranked much, much higher in overall education and percentage of high school graduates??? Did you know that the fine work of the Dept of Education now boosts 3 out of every 10 students WILL NOT GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL, with 47% of black children NOT GRADUATING....... and You think this is good and needs to continue???

September 22 2010 at 10:25 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
The Sims Family

Jim Guy, The overall ranking of education is not directly affected by the establishment of a department. It is funding. If a public school does not have enough funds to buy updated material, their overall ranking will decrease. The DoEd established baseline learning curves (for the most part). Now, if our overall ranking decreases because kids aren't meeting standards, how does getting rid of the DoEd changes anything?

September 22 2010 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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