The smart people think winning the Senate could carry risks for the GOP. Paul Waldman looks at the fact that GOP senators are discussing reasonable-sounding modifications to the Affordable Care Act while GOP House members are talking about scuttling the law altogether, and writes:
See the difference? The senators accept that the ACA is law and are thinking about how they'd like to change it. The House members are coming up with another way to make a futile, symbolic shaking of their fists in the general direction of the White House. And this may offer a clue to how legislating would proceed in a Republican Congress. The House, still dominated by extremely conservative Republicans for whom any hint of compromise is considered the highest treason, could continue to pass one doomed bill after another, while the Senate tries to write bills that have at least some chance of ever becoming law.Omigod! House and Senate Republicans might not be able to do their job of legislating effectively and responsibly! (That differs from now in what significant way exactly?)
Ramesh Ponnuru also frets that Republicans might not be able to legislate effectively:
... even if Republicans succeed [electorally in 2014] by taking the path of least resistance, they will be storing up future trouble. What if they win the Senate? In that case, Congress will have to move legislation. Republicans will have to come up with attractive conservative bills then, so that Obama will either feel it necessary to sign them or pay a political price for vetoing them. They will be in much better shape if they have campaigned on some of these ideas. That way they can say that the public knew what it would be getting by voting for Republicans. Republicans will also be better able to achieve unity among party congressmen, who will be more likely to feel that they're invested in these ideas as a group."Republicans will have to come up with attractive conservative bills"? Why? The creation and maintenance of a gridlocked, dysfunctional D.C. is working swimmingly for Republicans -- they have a lock on the House and have an excellent chance of taking the Senate, all after years of gridlock, because they can persuade low-info voters that any problems in the federal government should be blamed on the president and his party. Why tamper with what works? The centrist media always blames D.C. dysfunction on "both sides," while the right-wing media blames it on Democrats, so Democrats get the majority of the blame no matter who's at fault.
I actually don't think we're going to have conflict between foaming-at-the-mouth House Republicans and compromise-seeking right-centrist Senate Republicans -- I think the House will just start passing crazy stuff and kicking it to the Senate, at which point the right-wing media will pressure the Senate to pass it, inevitable Obama veto notwithstanding. I also think both houses will go on an investigation-palooza.
All that, I think, is what really threatens Republicans, not the lack of thoughtful ideas the whole party can embrace and Democrats might agree with. I think both houses could go crazy, in sync. There really could be enough wretched excess for Democrats to run against in 2016.
But if the Senate really is as restrained as Waldman, in particular, thinks it will be, then we'll just have sand in the government gears -- and voters will think, "What else is new?"