Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

GOP Senate Could Stymie Obama

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

GOP Senate Could Stymie Obama

Article excerpt

If Republicans gain control of the Senate, what will that mean for the last two years of the Obama administration?

As young people often say about their relationships on Facebook: It's complicated.

On the legislation front, gridlock is likely to persist, and could get worse. Obama, whose agenda is already stymied, would be playing defense most of the time instead of offense.

Since Republicans would need 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster and 67 to override a veto, their ability to enact their own agenda would be severely limited, as well.

Elections always have consequences, however, and legislation is not the only way to measure their impact. If Republicans seize the Senate, they would set the floor schedule and run the committees. Republican staffs would grow while Democratic ranks shrink. The GOP would be able to hold hearings, summon witnesses, raise questions, shine spotlights, investigate problems and apply pressure.

House Republicans are already using their majority status to scrutinize the administration on issues ranging from the Internal Revenue Service to the Veterans Affairs department. A select committee probing the Benghazi affair waits in the wings. A Republican Senate, bristling with ambitious new committee chairmen, would only compound the administration's misery.

The GOP's greatest leverage, however, would be over appointments requiring Senate confirmation. That starts with the successor to Attorney General Eric Holder, who's announced his resignation, and includes a variety of ambassadors, commissioners and lower level cabinet officers.

An even bigger issue would be federal judgeships, lifetime jobs that often comprise a major part of a president's legacy. There are currently 63 judicial vacancies and 32 pending nominations. Few of those candidates could win the approval of a Republican Senate.

Probably the most closely watched person in Washington next year would be Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who turns 82 in March and has suffered at least two bouts with cancer. The justice belongs to a four-member liberal bloc that balances four conservatives, with Justice Anthony Kennedy often serving as the swing vote. …

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