GOP to play it safe in lead up to mid terms
Congress will reconvene today for a short, two- week session and the Republicans are making it clear what their strategy will be; do no harm.
Congressional Republicans have a simple mantra as they take a brief break from the campaign trail and return to Washington: Do no harm.
Republicans believe they are on the cusp of capturing full control of Congress for the first time since 2006. They don’t want to squander the opportunity.
GOP insiders hope the next two weeks in Washington will be remembered for being, well, fairly unmemorable. The House leadership’s game plan is to play prevent defense: Keep the government open, temporarily renew some federal programs, pass bills that can buttress their message for the midterms, and sprint back to the campaign trail.
One GOP strategist put it this way: “You’re heading toward the goal line, you’re at the 10-yard line and you want to score a touchdown. You don’t want to fumble the ball or create a self-inflicted wound.”
Stung by the backlash from shutting down the government a year ago, GOP leaders this time have moved to quash any talk about another shutdown or impeaching President Obama. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hasn’t exactly displayed great zest for making his lawsuit accusing Obama of abusing his executive power a focus of the summer.
Such issues have the potential to ignite the conservative base in the final weeks before Election Day. But those headline-grabbing antics can also backfire, helping Democrats raise cash and alienating the independent voters the GOP needs to win back control of the upper chamber.
Republicans can feel the wind at their backs. Vulnerable Democrats have been bogged down by a president who has been polling poorly all year and struggling to define his strategy to fight Islamic militants in Iraq and Syria.
The lackluster jobs numbers for August undermined confidence about the economy, which was already tepid at best.
Veteran Senate Republicans have been warning their colleagues on the other side of the Capitol to avoid any distractions that could halt the GOP’s momentum and undermine candidates in tough races.
After its five-week recess, Congress returns for votes on Monday night and will be working through Sept. 19. If lawmakers can quickly wrap up their work, the House may not come back to town until after the election.
President Obama had been mulling the timing of his amnesty announcement with an eye toward the GOP using the continuing resolution as a weapon against implementing any executive actions he took. But polls show the GOP reaction would have been mild compared to the backlash from voters - even in his own party. So the president shelved the decision until after the election and Republicans in the House now have no overriding reason to shutter the government.
A continuing resolution (with sequestration intact) will probably pass before the session ends. We might also expect some symbolic votes on ISIS and Ukraine resolutions in the House.
All in all, not much excitement to write home about in this abbreviated session.