Wednesday, 5 November 2014

GOP pledges to avoid ideological warfare with Obama....

WASHINGTON — Americans handed Republicans control of Congress for the first time since 2006, and leading GOP lawmakers pledged in the wake of sweeping victories that they would not screw it up.
"The message that was delivered to us (from voters) was: We expect to have policies put in place that the American people support, and we expect you to work together to accomplish that," Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., told reporters Wednesday.
Moran ran the Senate GOP's campaign operation for the midterm elections, which has so far netted Republicans seven seats for at least a 52-seat majority come January. Alaska's Senate race has not yet been called, but Republicans are likely to gain another seat there with Dan Sullivan running ahead of Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Begich. Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu heads to a Dec. 6 runoff against GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy.
In the weeks leading to Election Day, GOP congressional leaders have been quietly crafting an agenda that party leaders say is aimed at improving the public's view of Congress broadly and the Republican Party in particular. Despite significant GOP gains on Tuesday, the public still holds a dim view of both.
"Our party will ultimately be judged on how we govern, and that is what we were elected to do," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who ran the House GOP's campaign operation that has resulting in the biggest Republican majority since the World War II era.
Republicans are pledging to pass a budget through Congress next year, and they are eyeing an overhaul of the nation's tax code. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is the likely next chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over the tax code, and will play a starring role in that effort. Republicans are also eyeing ways to use the budget process to reduce entitlement spending and rein in Obamacare.
Although Republicans will be under pressure to advance causes popular among their conservative base, including the full repeal of President Obama's Affordable Care Act, leaders sought a conciliatory tone and were reluctant to boast of any mandate coming out of Tuesday's elections.
"We are humbled by the responsibility the American people have placed with us, but this is not a time for celebration," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, cautioned.
In a statement, Boehner said House Republicans are expected to advance bills they say will grow jobs as well as broad energy legislation. Republicans have clashed repeatedly with the administration over the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which faces a renewed prospect for passage, although industry demand for it has diminished.
Republicans made clear that a broad immigration overhaul is unlikely to move forward. Instead, laws to tighten the border will take precedence. "We can't get anywhere on immigration reform unless the people are confident the border is totally secure," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
Kyle Downey, a former GOP congressional aide, said if Obama moves forward with an executive order on immigration policy, it will likely blow up any prospects for compromise with Republicans in his final two years in office.
"The ball is entirely in the president's court," Downey said. "If he responds to both the electorate and the clear majority they are sending to Washington with executive orders on immigration or any number of issues outside of fighting ISIS or Ebola, he will be setting a tone of confrontation, and inviting two years of gridlock."
While Republicans have spearheaded four years of confrontation with the White House, lawmakers candidly acknowledged Wednesday that it could not continue if they want to improve the party's standing with the public or their 2016 presidential nominee's chances of winning. Passing a budget and moving legislation forward will rebuild public trust in the GOP, they said.
"It gives us a great opportunity to prove that we can govern and set the stage for a successful 2016," said Moran.
However, Boehner and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will face renewed tests on holding together a fractious group of congressional Republicans to advance a governing agenda. Boehner padded his majority by a dozen seats, potentially giving him more breathing room to negotiate. McConnell has the majority, but he is still far short of the 60-vote threshold to stop filibusters.
Former senator Bob Bennett of Utah told reporters Wednesday he was confident in McConnell's ability to out-maneuver Tea Party-styled conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who may not toe the party line.
"Mitch has very carefully, very methodically, very much under the radar, isolated Ted Cruz. He's kind of sealed him off like the body puts a sack around some foreign matter," he said.