The Republican Party, already favored to win control of both Houses of Congress got some added good news on Sunday. In Iowa, where Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst has been locked in a tight race with Rep. Bruce Braley for an open seat, a widely respected poll found Ernst has surged to a 7-point lead.
Surrogates for the Braley campaign immediately dubbed the poll, which was sponsored by the Des Moines Register and conducted by pollster J. Ann Selzer, an “outlier.” But speaking to George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, polling analyst Nate Silver, the founder of FiveThirtyEight.com, called the poll, “one of the most reliable in the country.”
The news from Iowa came just days after the release of new polling data showing that President Obama remains deeply unpopular with voters, and that a slim majority of likely voters would prefer to see Republicans in control of Congress.
That may be why much of the discussion on the Sunday shows this week was dedicated to how a Republican-led Congress would govern.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the presumptive front-runner for Senate Majority Leader, said in an interview with CBS that he has a list of legislative priorities that he would like to move through Congress. He named trade agreements and comprehensive tax reform as proposals that have both Democratic and Republican supporters.
However, he did not promise an era of harmonious cooperation. He predicted that a Republican Congress would challenge the President by passing bills that he will find difficult, or even impossible, to sign.
“He’s vetoed two little bills in six years neither of which were of any magnitude, so he’s not been confronted with anything that made him uncomfortable,” said McConnell. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sending a president a bill that makes him uncomfortable. He doesn’t own the place. Congress is a factor, too.”
One obvious Republican priority that would likely cause the president to pull out the veto pen is a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. McConnell, whose state has successfully implemented the program, leading to tens of thousands of previously uninsured Kentuckians receiving health insurance, has waffled a bit on the feasibility of repeal.
However, his fellow Kentuckian, Republican Sen. Rand Paul showed no such qualms. Paul, widely expected to be a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, appeared on three separate shows Sunday morning where he was asked to lay out an agenda for the Republican Congress.
“We should repeal Obamacare,” Paul said.
The first-term senator, who earned some media attention last week for his statement that the Republican Party’s brand, in his words, “sucks,” said that until now, Republicans have focused too much on issues with narrow appeal, such as voter identification requirements, rather than trying to broaden the party’s appeal by passing more substantive legislation.
“I think we should immediately start passing bills,” he said, adding that his first priority would be reforming the tax treatment of money U.S.-based companies earn overseas. The U.S. has a high corporate tax rate and, unlike most other developed nations, taxes the profits companies earn overseas. Because that tax isn’t applied until profits earned overseas are “repatriated,” companies are currently holding as much as $2 trillion in offshore accounts.
Paul advocates reducing the tax rate on those funds so that companies will have greater incentive to bring the money home. Even with a reduced tax rate, mass repatriation would be a windfall for the Treasury, which Paul proposed using to invest in the nation’s failing infrastructure.
“Let’s rebuild America,” he said. “Let’s do some nation building of America first. I think we can pass that. There’s bipartisan support.”
Others said that passing an infrastructure bill or a comprehensive energy bill, would be a positive step for the Republicans, who have spent so long obstructing the President’s initiatives that they need to demonstrate an ability to accomplish something.
“Be careful what you wish for,” said former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat in an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union. “If they get the Senate, they’d better do something. They’d better send the president some responsible pieces of legislation, or they’ll get crushed in 2016.”
Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, on the same program, said he expects the Senate and House to cooperate in passing bills addressing various national priorities, including jobs creation, infrastructure development, and energy policy.
He also predicted a return to regular order in the Appropriations process. “I think you’ll see the Republican House and Senate will go back to passing a budget and sending it to the president,” he said.
Democrats, however, were not uniformly optimistic about that happening. Democratic Party spokesman Mo Elleithee, citing last year’s government shutdown, among other things, said, looking to the Republican Party to return the country to “the business of governing” is a losing proposition.
“They have spent the last six years doing nothing but focusing on how to block commonsense priorities on immigration, on the minimum wage, on infrastructure,” he said.
“If they actually do take control of the Senate, then fine…now’s your time to show that you are actually willing to do this,” Elleithee said. “I’m not sure that they know how.”
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