By Steve Brawner
© 2014 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.
This is not an endorsement of Rep. Tom Cotton, but it’s best for everyone – in some ways, even President Obama – if Republicans take over the Senate. They are almost certain to maintain control of the House, so a GOP-controlled Senate is the only way our government might be able to function during the next two years.
We’ve seen what happens when one party controls the House and the other controls the Senate in the current political climate – a complete train wreck. Nobody has to take responsibility because everybody can just blame the other side. As a result, Americans have witnessed a series of avoidable fiscal crises and a government shutdown. It’s also why we’ve seen hundreds of show votes that have little purpose but to score political points, such as the Republican House’s dozens of votes to repeal or cripple Obamacare. Those bills died in the Senate, which the House members knew would happen all along.
Just as a split Congress is bad for the country, so too is one-party control. Under the Constitution, the White House and Congress are supposed to check and balance each other. But the way the system has evolved, when the president and the congressional majority are of the same party, they see themselves as members of the same team.
In contrast, the government functioned reasonably well at times from 1994-2000, when Democrats controlled the White House under President Clinton and Republicans controlled Congress. The melting pot of ideas and priorities brought both branches of government to the center. Together they reformed welfare and passed polices that enabled the government to balance the budget, sort of. On the other hand, Monica Lewinsky happened.
If Republicans win control of the Senate (and keep the House), they will have a responsibility to govern, not just oppose Obama. They will need to show the country they can accomplish something constructive so they can win again in 2016.
So there will not be dozens of votes to repeal Obamacare because if Republicans actually did that, they’d have the responsibility to replace it with something else, and they don’t know what that would be.
Instead, GOP members will pass one bill to repeal Obamacare in the House and try to pass one in the Senate to satisfy their base voters. If it somehow survived a Democratic filibuster attempt in the Senate, Obama of course would use his veto. If that were to happen, everyone on both sides would rant and rave, and then hopefully Congress would get down to business and start amending the law – for example, by passing tort reform to limit the excesses of medical malpractice lawsuits. Obama might even sign such a bill because a Republican takeover of the Senate would force (and on some issues allow) him and some congressional Democrats to move to the center.
Mike Ross, who spent 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, has made a similar argument in his race for governor. Republicans already are assured of a minimum of 20 of the 35 seats in the Arkansas Senate. They’ll almost certainly control the House as well.
Ross has said his election will keep one party from controlling everything. That’s true, although the Arkansas governor’s veto is far less powerful than the president’s. While a presidential veto requires a two-thirds vote to override, the state Legislature merely needs a simple majority, which is the same percentage that passed the bill in the first place. Still, the governor is the state’s chief executive – the one able to get everybody’s attention, and the one who remains in Little Rock administering state government after legislators have gone home.
So Ross is right. Voting for him will result in divided government in Little Rock, and voting for his opponent, Asa Hutchinson, will result in one-party control.
That’s not an endorsement of Ross any more than this column is endorsing Cotton. There are many other reasons to choose one candidate over the other. Besides, Little Rock is not Washington – not now, and hopefully not ever.