Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday Question for Liberals

I think I'll go with the same question: Suppose that Republicans take the White House and Senate while retaining the House next year. What are the major legislative victories you would expect them to achieve by the 2014 midterm elections?


  1. Like I said, if the filibuster is not curbed, then nothing substantial. They can try to repeal the ACA, but if they only do the budget stuff through reconciliation, they would make the rest unsustainable.

    It is very unlikely that any GOP Senate majority would be at 60 seats, or even those to it.

  2. Some kind of weakening of public unions. Some corporate tax cuts. A hard push to repeal regulations of all types... I'm not sure if they'll actually manage to repeal many substantial laws. Tax reform? Anti abortion stuff will probably get bounced around... If the angry tea party reps are still around they might cause problems for the leadership by pushing batsh@t proposals.

  3. ACA repeal.
    Some sort of government spending cap.
    Major restrictions on EPA.
    Repatriation of business profits at low tax rate.
    Permanent extension of Bush taxcuts at all levels.

  4. If we learned anything from the Bush presidency, then they'll pass massive deficit-financed tax cuts, primarily for the rich (through reconciliation, of course), and basically nothing else of consequence, except maybe another bankruptcy bill, to punish those "moochers" trying to get out of a home on which they owe more than it's worth.

  5. Preventing the EPA from taking action on greenhouse gas rules, definitely (and with the support of some resource-extraction friendly Dems to overcome a filibuster). Continued packing of the courts with right-wing judges, although I'm not sure if that counts as a legislative achievement. I am not sure they'd be able to get a regressive tax cut through even with reconciliation, but perhaps.

  6. Accomplishments? They don't need no stinking accomplishments... They just need enough of something de-regulatory and supply side enough to create wailing and gnashing on the left, then, cross their fingers and hope that their timing is lucky on any further recovery from the financial meltdown (or whatever additional meltdowns). They can then then claim for a generation that a few drilling permits or some further corporate tax cutting or long-term entitlement reform or partial ACA repeal or whatever was the REAL cause of the Romney/Perry recovery from whatever artificial baseline.

    Either that, or a war or other emergency of some type to scramble the deck more fully.

    Or our problems our really very deep indeed, and the glorious R Restoration will have as much difficulty as the D's.

  7. Assuming Democrats largely also try to use the filibuster to impose a super-majority requirement, then what nonetheless gets through is whatever 'centrist' Democratic senators want to do that Republicans also want to do. Because those Democrats have never stopped showing a willingness to break with their party when it suits themselves. Thus, I think David nails it, except perhaps for ACA repeal.

    Since Republicans have in the past used their times in power to consolidate a playing field in their favor, it's worth asking what subtle structural measures they might pass to demobilize Democratic-leaning constituencies. Weakening federal unions is one I could imagine. Some sort of campaign finance reform that manages to solidify business rights and opacity, but squeeze unions' and nonprofits' rights is forseeable; that legislation would be so complex and technical, it would be hard to mount opposition.

    A harder question is to what extent the GOP plus pro-business Democrats would push through the undoing of some Dodd-Frank measures. That's also very technical legislation, but the bank issue remains toxic enough, that GOP leaders might judge it still too difficult to do without inflaming a populist revolt.

  8. It's always safe to bet a GOP Congress and GOP President will enact tax cuts for the rich. That's what I'm going with.

  9. Basically a do-over of 2005-6, minus the foreign quagmire (strictly speaking, minus a new one). Republicans probably can't repeal the New Deal with divided government, but they definitely can't do it with unified government. Bipartisan cover is absolutely essential to what they want to do (probably they can't do it either way, but they seemed closer this year with Obama than in 2005 with Bush).

  10. A mass migration of liberals to other countries to live.

  11. Tax cuts, possibly "tax reform" that generally rearranges things to be more favorable for businesses and high income voters. That was the main priority in 1981 and 2001, and was a major goal in 1995 to boot. It has the benefit of pleasing the base generally and organized interest groups.

    Since "deficit reduction" has become such a big thing among the base, I'd expect the first major spending bill to at least be spun as an effort to close the deficit. Some degree of fuzzy accounting or optimistic economic projections would be likely.

    Beyond that? There are probably bills that have been around in some form or another for a few years that would have a shot at getting through, like the bankruptcy bill a few years back. Patent law got a big overhaul recently, right? Maybe something with intellectual property rights.

    Also, there might be areas where the GOP feels vulnerable to liberals, like the Medicare drug benefit under Bush. I don't think climate change has that sort of pull, though, and financial/healthcare reform are sort of off the table.

  12. The Senate goes nuclear: The first time the Dems filibuster, Mitch McConnell will ask the Vice President (probably Rubio) to declare all filibusters in violation of the rules of the Senate. Dems will object, rightfully. McConnell will call for a vote to affirm Rubio's ruling. The vote will pass on a party-line vote. Filibusters will be effectively banned, and the Reps will pass the craziest sh*t you can ever imagine...

  13. The country will be safe from the specter of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero.

  14. Most of the above comments are on the right track. Contra kth, though, I don't think the Rethugs give a hirsute rodents hindquarters about bipartisan cover.

    As anon said, "Reps will pass the craziest sh*t you can ever imagine." And they will be proud of it.

    They key point is that with the modern Rethug party, it is virtually impossible to be cynical enough. The rational mind simply can't get there.


  15. JzB,

    A reminder: Please keep the language civil around here.

  16. even if they get rid of the filibuster, the GOP will still have to contend with the cable news/popular movement "filibuster." those corporate tax cuts and richest 1 percent tax cuts and whatever else tax cuts will be deficit funded unless the Republicans find offset somewhere... the way that Reagan did it was by raising taxes on everyone else. and in fact, that's an idea that the GOP has pushed ("40 percent of people in America don't pay taxes" is the way their candidates talk about it). In Reagan's day, the Democrats agreed to the tax cuts and didn't raise a huge popular outcry against them (in fact, they were in control of the House at the time). Do you imagine that the '13 Democrats will go the same route? Now imagine if the GOP tries to go after unions, or voting rights.

    Maybe the GOP will go for it and try to dismantle Medicare and Social Security in their first 100 days. Maybe they go for the tax cuts. Either way, whether or not they kill the filibuster, they are going to face an enraged left-wing and a Democrat Party that will be hungry for blood. It would be fascinating to know what the Republican strategists are talking about right now, in regards to this topic. Do they think that the massive public anger and lack of trust will go away after they sweep the '12 elections? Do they think the Democrats won't be inclined to pull the same oppositional tactics on them? Do they understand that, if they can't raise the standard of living among most Americans by '14 then they'll be punished just as surely as the Democrats were in '10? How are they going to address that, while pushing conservative policies that lower the standard of living for most Americans?

  17. This is a different anonymous than post 10/3 at 8:35am.

    Going off the last point in the above post, about the imperative to raise living standards in some way before the next election, could anyone imagine the GOP coming up with a shrewd scheme to resolve the mortgage foreclosure crisis. Theoretically, they could make a big show of doing some form of cramdown, which would help both those foreclosed upon and those waiting for the housing market to revive, while simultaneously they could also find some hard-to-follow way of funneling more money to Wall Street banks so that the cramdown bill doesn't unduly hurt the banks, whose interests the GOP serves.

    Basically, I can imagine a carefully crafted piece of legislation that's outwardly populist, gaining sufficient public political support to secure votes for 2014, but also ultimately secures the material interests of longtime powerful GOP constituencies. If the GOP controlled both the exec and leg. branches, they could pull that off.

  18. I predict with 99.9% confidence the GOP will NOT get rid of the filibuster except perhaps for executive branch confirmations. It's just too powerful and convenient a tool for them to use to block liberal legislation. They can live with liberal Senators blocking privatization of Social Security and Medicare far more than they can take the next liberal Congress passing a public option, cap-and-trade, card check, higher income taxes on the rich and securities traders, etc.

  19. A repeal of the 14th and 16th Amendments. Amend the constitution so that we don't have to have a post office. Other than that, they'll do everything possible to generate as many crises as possible by generally governing in an unsustainable way so as to cause terrible problems for whoever comes in after them - the only way they can get elected again.

    Also they'll eliminate taxes on dividends and replace it with a national sales tax, that should be sufficiently regressive to cause the kind of inflation that would trump up support for the gold standard. The US switches back to the gold standard, causing a global depression and a mini-dark age.

  20. would the "cramdown" work fast enough to have a definite effect by the '14 election? Or would it be a more subtle economic boost that people can't necessarily trace, and which doesn't immediately reach all parts of the economy? with an enraged Democrat Party and Left, I imagine that everything the Republicans do will be attacked heavily and there will be a concerted effort to give them no credit for any positive effect on the economy.
    going off of the precendent set by the '10 governors and state legislatures around the country, I'm inclined to agree with something the Plain Blogger has pointed out: the Republicans use electoral gains to secure power. That's why I'd be inclined to see party pressure to pass anti-union stuff and voting restriction stuff before I'd see anything approaching policy-oriented legislation. And after they pass anything anti-union or voting restrictive, the Left is going to have serious ammunition against them, allowing them to gather a populist opposition movement. So maybe the Republicans decide to slash Medicare first thing, reasoning that they'll never have a better opportunity than that moment to do so. And then, once again, the Left is able to generate major popular opposition.
    Maybe we'll have the most liberal Congress ever come '15, and a Democrat sweep of statehouses across the country. Texas might flip, finally. Given the nature of modern politics, with political momentum swinging crazily back and forth, it wouldn't be much of a surprise. It'll be especially bizarre for places like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania... being real swing states, they'll go from the far-right to the far-left ever four to six years.

  21. Don't know if the filibuster will live or die. If they get a Senate majority with a good margin then they will at least get the Dems to back down on a lot of appointments, as they did under Bush.

    On voting rights:
    Isn't that more of a state-level thing?

    On unions:
    They'll do something to weaken federal public sector unions, but I doubt it will have a big practical effect. Aren't they pretty weak already? They could pass a federal law to further weaken private and state public employee unions, but I don't know if it's on their radar.

    On the ACA:
    They'll definitely pass a bill related to the ACA. They will get something through loosening the coverage and deductible rules. They'll want to eliminate the subsidies and the mandate; these will get past a filibuster in a diminished form at least, and they may kill the mandate outright. Killing the mandate means they need to do something about preexisting conditions coverage: re-allowing coverage refusal is bad politics, but they could fiddle with it, leaving the coverage requirement in but creating some highly technical set of rules to let the insurance carriers charge high deductibles and high rates ("less regulation, more choices"). I don't know if that gets past a filibuster. It's conceivable that they could just punt on it, and let the adverse selection spiral begin. Maybe they'll kill the exchanges too; I don't know why they care about those but apparently some folks hate them.

  22. On Medicare: They will push at least half-heartedly for privatization: something like expanding Medicare Advantage and restoring its funding advantage vs. normal Medicare. If they have the votes they will push everyone onto private insurance plans. I do not think they will cut coverage (due to the politics), and spending will end up higher.

    Social Security:
    Something where you get to divert part of your payroll contribution into a privately managed account is possible. Don't know if they'll go for it. If they've already killed the filibuster and they can push it through quickly then probably. If they have to fight for it then no. They'd love to raise the eligibility age, but I agree that they'd rather do it under a mixed gov't. If Reps get Congress but Obama's reelected you can kiss your SS and Medicare goodbye.

    On Medicaid, welfare, etc.:
    Huge cuts in Medicaid funding and state coverage requirements. Same for CHIP, Section 8, food stamps, and whatever else catches the Tea Party's eye. Unemployment benefits? Maybe so!

    On the environment:
    More drilling and mining, more coal and nuclear permits. Something to block the EPA from regulating GHG. A budget cut which prevents them from fully performing their duties (already the case, will get worse). Either a law to weaken smog rules or endangered species/habitat rules, or executive measures to block their enforcement.

    The corporate tax rate is the biggest master class peeve still standing, but a headline rate cut would be unpopular. Maybe they'll go for a revenue-neutral approach where they cut the rate but close loopholes. That still is easy to demagogue, so they'd rather do this under mixed gov't with some Dems on board. Not so much because then they can say it's bipartisan, as because then they can count on Dems not to campaign hard on it. What's more likely is that they open up even more loopholes and exclusions, so the effective rate drops to almost nothing.

    Ha, you must be dreaming! Mortgage defaults come from immoral borrowers, remember?

    Oh, and a note on the economy:
    It would be in the GOP's political interest to pass a stimulus and other measures to boost the economy. But I think David Cameron is the model here: when a strong cut cut cut ideology clashes with political interest, the ideology wins. Spending will be cut, particularly on the poor. The budget deficit will increase with tax cuts, but it will be so badly targeted for stimulus purposes that it won't help much. There will effectively be a fiscal contraction which will damage the economy quite a bit. Fed policy, however, will stay very loose.


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