The Corner

What a GOP Senate Can’t Do

Charles Krauthammer’s column today makes the case that Republicans are right not to run on an agenda this fall, but should act on one if they win the Senate. I’ve said my piece on the first half of that argument — and said it, and said it – so I’ll turn to the second half.

Winning control of the Senate would allow Republicans to pass a whole range of measures now being held up by Reid, often at the behest of the White House. Make it a major reform agenda. The centerpiece might be tax reform, both corporate and individual. It is needed, popular, and doable. Then go for the low-hanging fruit enjoying wide bipartisan support, such as the Keystone XL pipeline and natural-gas exports, especially to Eastern Europe. One could then add border security, energy deregulation, and health-care reform that repeals the more onerous Obamacare mandates.

If the president signs any of it, good. If he vetoes, it will be clarifying.

The word Krauthammer isn’t mentioning is “filibuster.” Republicans, if they control the Senate, are not going to be able to pass “a whole range of measures.” Certainly not tax reform, where they have no consensus that gets much further than the phrase “tax reform.” (They might be further along in building a consensus if some of them were running on tax reform this fall.) I’m not even sure Keystone is as low-hanging as Krauthammer thinks — if there’s a Republican Senate this year, it will be because several pro-Keystone Democrats were defeated. Republicans can use the “reconciliation” process to bypass filibusters, but they can use it only rarely and on some subjects.

If Republicans can take the Senate, they can reduce the confirmation rate for liberal nominees and they can force Senate Democrats to take tough votes, where they have to choose between the party line and attractive conservative proposals. They can’t set up a lot of veto fights.


Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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