Andy Friedman: GOP in ‘Strong Position’ to Take Senate

But the party that wins the Senate majority is ‘unlikely to influence greatly’ legislation from the post-election Congress

Andy Friedman of The Washington Update. Andy Friedman of The Washington Update.

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With many state primaries behind us, the “re-emergence of more moderate candidates puts the Republicans in a strong position to gain a majority of the Senate in the fall election,” says Andy Friedman, in a just-released look at the upcoming midterm elections.

But regardless whether Republicans or Democrats win the Senate it is “unlikely to influence greatly” the legislation that emerges from the post-election Congress, Friedman, principal of The Washington Update, says in his Thursday commentary.

“Almost certainly neither party will gain the 67 seats in the Senate needed to overrule a presidential veto,” he continued. “In fact, neither party is likely to gain 60 Senate seats, the number needed to end a filibuster and move legislation through that body.”

With the House in Republican hands and a Democratic White House, he goes on to say, “the country is facing at least two more years of split government.”

As a result: “Congress will act only when faced with more ‘forcing events,’ such as raising the debt ceiling again in 2015, responding to a domestic terrorist attack, or coming to the aid of a longtime U.S. ally.”

Friedman notes in his commentary that the “news is good” for Republicans seeking a Senate majority. “The candidates who have emerged in many states — Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Colorado and New Hampshire, among others — are moderate Republicans who bested their Tea Party primary opponents,” Friedman writes in a commentary that he says is a follow up to his March forecast.  

One exception is Mississippi, Friedman said, “where a Tea Party candidate has forced a long-term Republican incumbent into a run-off, but that state will remain in Republican hands regardless and so does not factor into any shift in the Senate majority.”

Friedman said in his March outlook that whether Republicans “can gain a majority of the Senate seats this fall will depend on the candidates that emerge from the primary contests.”

He asserted in March that “if the bulk of these candidates are ideologues (who are less willing to moderate their views as necessary to attract independent voters in the general election), then the Republicans are unlikely to gain in the Senate. But if moderates are able to capture the primaries, then the Republicans could indeed become the majority party there.”

Friedman does note one area where gaining a Senate majority will make a difference for Republicans.

“Last year, the Senate Democrats eliminated the filibuster rule that had required a 60-vote majority to confirm presidential appointments, such as Cabinet officials and federal judges," he said. "As a result, the Senate now can confirm federal appointees with a simple majority (51 votes). If the Republicans assume a majority of the Senate, they will be able to block Obama’s nominations for the remainder of his term.”

As for the House, Friedman opines that the GOP will retain control, but the recent ouster of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the primary election to relatively unknown Tea Party challenger Dave Brat “suggests that the Tea Party might assert more control over the positions the leadership takes.”

Said Friedman: “Until the last few years, Cantor served with the strong backing of the more conservative (Tea Party) wing of the Republican party. But more recently, the Tea Party grew wary of Cantor’s willingness, as Speaker [John] Boehner’s lieutenant, to compromise on fiscal measures that reopened the government and raised the debt ceiling, as well as his stated desire to advance an immigration reform measure.”

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Check out Friedman: Senate Control Within GOP’s Reach, but Tea Party Could Weaken Grasp on ThinkAdvisor.

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