By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
If the outcome of today’s vote lives up to expectations, conservatives will seize control of the House today along with a sizeable pick up of seats in the Senate which will force President Obama to greatly reduce the scope of his legislative ambitions for the next two years.
The Boston Globe is reporting that the expected conservative rout will mean the end to legislative initiatives such as proposals to control greenhouse gases and overhauling immigration laws, reducing them to more modest initiatives with which the president can at least appear to be reaching across the aisle.
“To win in 2012, it will be imperative that Obama get the economy back on track and generate jobs,’’ said Christopher N. Malagisi, a political science professor at American University to the Globe. “He has to figure out how to win back independents if they have departed en masse in the midterms. Without both of those things happening, how can he win?’’
The GOP is expected to gain much more than the 39 seats necessary to take over control of the House, but the Senate is expected to remain in Democratic control. However, a rash of incoming conservative lawmakers is expected to be a feisty bunch who are looking to reform the system and prove to the American public that they are capable of governing.
Even though their first plan of action will probably be an attempt to repeal ObamaCare, which will put liberal lawmakers on the defensive, both sides are likely to strike a more conciliatory chord when it comes to reducing the growing deficit. Issues such as Afghanistan and foreign trade may also bring both sides together.
Even though the idea of a new stimulus bill to help the economy is almost certainly off the table, conservatives may suggest a smaller-scale package of investments in public infrastructure along the lines of what the White House has proposed.
John Boehner (R-OH), who will take over the gavel in the House should the GOP win tonight, has already suggested that he would vote for Obama’s plan to extend tax cuts only for families earning less than $250,000. He indicated that he will also be willing to work with the Administration on their education initiatives, many of which he agrees with.
When it comes to the vastly unpopular “cap and trade” bill, the president may be able to sidestep a total abandonment of the legislation by using his authority as head of the executive branch to make regulatory changes through the Environmental Protection Agency that he can’t get through Congress, the Globe reports.
Senator John F. Kerry (D-MA) recently acknowledged in an interview that major GOP victories at the polls will prevent passage of broad climate-change legislation that includes control of carbon emissions which scientists blame for global warming.
“We’re going to have to do it on a step-by-step basis, mostly focusing on the energy components of the equation,’’ he said.
Legislation involving social issues such as abortion and embryonic stem cell research will probably be the most contentious in coming years after a sizeable number of new prolife lawmakers infiltrate both Houses of Congress in January.
However, if the GOP does manage to win control of the Senate tonight, there will be little to stop them from passing whatever legislation they want, which means the president will be forced to dust off his veto pen in order to stop some of the GOP’s agenda.
In that case, “it’s a different game,’’ said Robert Reich, secretary of labor in the Clinton administration and a professor of public policy at the University of California Berkeley to the Globe. “The game moves from offense to defense. He’ll be using his veto pen considerably to ward off efforts to undermine legislative initiatives passed in the first two years of his administration.’’
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