The Next Congress

Democrats are increasingly pessimistic about holding the Senate. As Greg Sargent notes in the Washington Post:

with Democrats narrowly favored in New Hampshire and North Carolina, the route to 50 seats will probably also require Democratic wins in Colorado and Iowa at the outset, followed by a surprise pickup elsewhere. This is not impossible. But it’s difficult.

After the recounts, runoffs, and lawsuits have run their course, it looks like the GOP will control both chambers.

What then? The Editorial Board of the New York Times predicts a continuation of obstructionism.

It’s not just that they are committed to time-wasting, obstructionist promises like repeal of health care reform, which everyone knows President Obama would veto. The bigger problem is that the party’s leaders have continually proved unable to resist pressure from the radical right, which may very well grow in the next session of Congress.

The conclusion: “It’s hard to imagine a Congress less productive than this one, but obstructionism could actually get worse if a new majority took hold.”

Yet, imagine if a Democratic President and a Republican Congress could actually work together to produce meaningful reforms? Rather than obstructionism, perhaps it would feel a lot like the 1995-2000 period, one that brought an expansion of trade, entitlement reform, and a balanced budget. There is an interesting piece on Politico that asks several prominent scholars and past/present policymakers where there may be room for bipartisan agreements before the 2016 elections. Among the eleven “bipartisan ideas that might actually pass,” the most consequential would be:

  • Rehabilitate our prison laws (presented by Rand Paul, who provides a brief discussion of his REDEEM Act)
  • Stop bulk data collection (discussed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, coauthor of the USA FREEDOM Act)
  • Immigration reform (identified by Jon Huntsman and Lee Hamilton)
  • New Trade Promotion Authority ( presented by Robert Zoellick)

There are others that I am less enthusiastic about (e.g., increased military funding, advocated by—surprise, surprise—William Kristol) and a few I might have hoped for but were absent (e.g., progressive indexing in Social Security, the elimination of most tax expenditures). The key point: unified GOP control of the Congress could open the door to a productive period of significant reform. It has happened before.

Any predictions about Tuesday’s results and the long-term ramifications?

One thought on “The Next Congress

  1. I have my doubts about any bipartisan reforms. I think there’s a better chance that every Congressional move will be in the context of how to win the presidency in 2016. Some issues might progress, but I doubt something like immigration reform will go anywhere, there are too many conservatives who believe we need to deport every undocumented alien and seal the border before easing any immigration rule.

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