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2014 Elections as Rashomon

rashomon

In the classic 1950 Japanese film, Rashomon, Akira Kurosawa tells the story of a crime as seen through the eyes of participants and witnesses, preventing the viewer with a very different interpretation of events. We are seeing much the same in descriptions of what the 2014 elections mean. These descriptions are all predicated on the assumption that the GOP will retain a majority in the House and achieve a majority in the Senate.

View from the White House

Via Politco and White House ponders life with a Republican Senate

As bad as the electoral map for Democrats is this year, the map for Republicans in 2016 is even worse. GOP incumbents are up in seven states President Barack Obama won twice and two he won once, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Kelly Ayotte48%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard48% in New Hampshire, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Rob Portman55%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard55% in Ohio, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Ron Johnson81%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard81% in Wisconsin, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mark Kirk37%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard37% in Illinois and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania.

Those senators, goes one thought circulating in the West Wing, would be under pressure to move toward the middle and be the bridge to larger deals with a caucus eager to show it can get things done.

Aides are discussing potential areas for agreement: tax reform, infrastructure, sentencing reform, renewing unemployment insurance, raising the minimum wage and expanding early childhood education.

View from the GOP Establishment

Via Politico and Exclusive: Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Kevin McCarthy40%House Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard40% vows change on Hill to save GOP

In a series of interviews with POLITICO in his office in D.C., in a Capitol Police SUV in New York and aboard a rented private jet flying above the Empire State, McCarthy, who became the No. 2 Republican in the House this summer, laid out in the richest detail yet his goals for a Republican-controlled Capitol Hill.

Legislative cliffs are over. One muscular, unified agenda will bridge both chambers. If he has his way, House and Senate Republicans will kick off the year at a joint retreat to get on the same page. He and Sen. John Thune (R-SD)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. John Thune61%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard61% (R-S.D.) have already been holding private dinners with lawmakers from both chambers to build relationships.

McCarthy is intently focused on the first few months in session, which he sees as critical for his agenda. He would like to use the lame-duck session to pass a long-term government-funding bill, so Washington can begin focusing on big-picture legislating, instead of just trying to keep government’s doors open. He also is aiming to renew a host of lapsed business-focused tax provisions and renew the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act — two items with bipartisan support.

“If we are fortunate to have both majorities, take away any cliff you can have hanging out there,” McCarthy said, sitting in his SUV fiddling with an iPhone and Blackberry. “If you have a cliff, it takes attention away. Why put cliffs up that hold us back from doing bigger policy?”

The party’s ability to coalesce around large-scale legislation is certainly in doubt, but McCarthy seems willing to pass small-bore bills on issues ranging from energy to health care to taxes. He sees it as a way to draw constant contrasts with President Barack Obama and to split Democrats. Maybe Obama will sign some bills into law, he says. If he doesn’t, it will set up a clean discussion for the 2016 presidential election.

View from Conservatives

Via Politico and Conservatives ready to give leaders hell

Conservatives in Congress are drawing up their wish list for a Republican Senate, including “pure” bills, like a full repeal of Obamacare, border security and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline — unlikely to win over many Democrats and sure to torment GOP leaders looking to prove they can govern.

Interviews with more than a dozen conservative lawmakers and senior aides found a consensus among the right wing of the Republican Party: If Republicans take the Senate, they want to push an agenda they believe was hamstrung by the Democratic-controlled chamber, even if their bills end up getting vetoed by President Barack Obama.

Their vision could create problems for congressional leaders who want to show they aren’t just the party of “hell no.” And while conservatives say they agree with that goal, their early priorities will test how well Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. John BoehnerN/AHouse Republican AverageSee Full ScorecardN/A and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mitch McConnell67%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard67% can keep the party united.

View from Lobbyists

Via Politico and K Street’s Republicans hope for uptick in business

“There will be a burst of excitement and activity as a result of that change,” said former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who now heads Squire Patton Boggs’ lobbying operation. “There is a lot of pent-up demand in the tax area, infrastructure, immigration, the budget and tax policy.”

Lott said he thinks it will be a shot in the arm to K Street with a much busier legislative agenda.

View from the Woodcutter

rashomon woodcutter

If you are familiar with the movie you know that the woodcutter is the sole disinterested observer of the incident. It is into that role that I’ll insinuate myself. The White House, if they think they can cut the deals they say in the article, are utterly delusional. This is not unlikely. Everything the Obama administration has done to date has required large dollops of wishful thinking for it to work. Obamacare, Libya, Syria, Ebola, etc., etc. The White House is staffed by energetic people who look smart on paper but in reality are profoundly stupid. Rather than adhere to the classic dictum of how to deal with the stupid and energetic, Obama has made the White House the motherlode of such dangerous lackwits.

The lobbyists are also riding on a smile and shoeshine. They will rack up a lot of billable hours in the first half of the year but the new Congress is going to be less favorable to lobbying efforts than the last. What has changed is that the House majority is a bit larger and more conservative. The Quisling wing of the GOP still has Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Eric Cantor48%House Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard48%‘s unceremonious ouster and the bloody primary fights of Thad (the senile adulterer) Cochran, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mitch McConnell67%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard67%, and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Pat Roberts90%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard90% in mind. With a sure to be hard fought presidential campaign kicking off as soon as the new Congress is sworn in, no one is going to be in the mood to make compromises with the White House on big ticket items. Quite honestly, if the GOP establishment could not get an immigration bill passed in the last four years the odds of them getting one in the next two approach zero.

The real fun is going to be watching the furball that will be the GOP caucus, particularly in the House. I suspect Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)Heritage ActionScorecardRep. Kevin McCarthy40%House Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard40% will turn out to be the most right of the lot. The Congress will pass a lot of small stuff. They will float larger bills in order to give the illusion of “governing” (and puh-freakin-leeze can we put that word to bed. Congress can’t govern. It wasn’t designed to govern. The levers of power – legal, military, and regulatory – all lie in the Executive and as we’ve seen they are impervious to attack if the president simply ignores the law) and to set up contrasts with the Democrats. The real show in town in the GOP presidential talent show.

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