THE BLOG
10/30/2014 04:11 pm ET Updated Dec 30, 2014

What Would Republicans Do With a Senate Majority?

By now I'm sure that a lot of Americans, especially in the "Senate swing states," are wishing that the November election would be over with already. Many are no doubt empathizing with teary-eyed Abigael Evans, the little girl in Colorado who told her mother in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election, "I'm tired of Branco Bama and Mitt Romney." (She seemed to be happy, though, when Obama won, which I guess could be taken as evidence that youthful impatience should not always have the last word.)

According to Nate Silver's poll aggregation and prediction site fivethirtyeight.com, Republicans currently have a two-thirds chance of capturing the Senate. But as Silver himself would be quick to point out, saying that this means that a Republican takeover is guaranteed would be akin to saying that the best hitter in baseball is guaranteed to fail to get on base the next time he goes to the plate, since the best hitters in baseball get on base about a third of the time, which is roughly Silver's estimate of the Democrats' chances of keeping a Senate majority.

Election fatigue can often foster election cynicism. An Irish poet once wrote: "Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart." Maybe some progressives are asking themselves: would it really be so terrible if Republicans take over the Senate? Maybe Democrats are exaggerating how bad Republican control of the Senate would be, in order to try to gin up Democratic turnout.

So perhaps it would be useful for progressives who are asking themselves how bothered they should really be about the prospect of Republican control of the Senate to eavesdrop a bit on what Republicans are saying to other Republicans about what they should do with a majority in the Senate.

The Hill reports [my emphasis]:

Conservatives salivating over the prospects of a huge victory on Nov. 4 are pressuring House and Senate GOP leaders to go big after Election Day.

The right argues leaders should forget about playing small ball and use momentum from the midterms to put big checks on President Obama's agenda.

"People want to see a bold vision. They want to see a real fight on ObamaCare repeal and tax reform that takes a blowtorch to the tax code. They want to see real entitlement reform, not empty talk," one conservative GOP aide said.

As every politically active person should know by now, "real entitlement reform" is an insider euphemism for such things as cutting Social Security benefits by lowering the cost-of-living adjustment and raising the retirement age.

Here's what The Hill says the Republican "moderates" want to do with a Senate majority instead of the Republican conservatives' more ambitious agenda [my emphasis]:

McConnell and Boehner appear more interested in approving an authorization of the Keystone XL oil pipeline; repealing the healthcare law's medical device tax, which is unpopular with members of both parties; and moving trade legislation.

All of these measures could pick enough support to make it to Obama's desk and win his signature.

But, The Hill says, "Conservatives decry this as small ball." What do conservatives want instead? [My emphasis.]

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) led the pressure campaign on GOP leaders to take a more forceful stance against ObamaCare and the administration's deferred action on deportations, and he expects to gain new allies if Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton (R), Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan (R) prevail on Tuesday.

"If all they do is keep their campaign promises, we're going to be in very good shape because they're all running as unabashed conservatives, and one of their top priorities is repealing ObamaCare," said another conservative Senate GOP aide.

If we judge by what these Republicans are saying to each other, we can't say for sure what Republicans are going to do if they take over the Senate, because what they are going to do is going to be the outcome of a fight between "Republican conservatives" and "Republican moderates."

But what we can say is that from a progressive point of view, the possibilities are going to range between "very bad" and "also very bad."

If the "Republican moderates" get their way, the Keystone XL oil pipeline is going to be approved, a huge setback to efforts to reform U.S. energy policies to reduce the threat of "climate chaos." If the "Republican moderates" get their way, the Trans-Pacific Partnership "trade agreement" is going to be approved, a huge setback to efforts to reform U.S. trade policy to protect labor rights, the environment, and access to essential medicines. That's if the "Republican moderates" prevail in the intra-Republican fight.

If the Republican conservatives get their way, Congress will (also) repeal the Affordable Care Act, cut Social Security benefits, and take away authority from the President to defer deporting people who, aside from being undocumented, have never committed any crime in the United States.

This isn't what Democrats are saying Republicans are going to do. This is what Republicans are saying Republicans are going to do.

Suppose that you don't live in a Senate swing state. Is there anything you can do about this, besides clicking on those emails asking you for money?

A lot of people have given serious thought to this question. Here is one example.