Election Day is almost nine months off. But right now Republicans seem almost certain to hold the House of Representatives and are likely to take the Senate. Which raises the inevitable question: How might the GOP seize defeat from the jaws of victory?
Two occasions stand out, two obvious obstacles ahead that could lead to disastrous Republican stumbles, two pitfalls on the path to a happy GOP Election Day. Republicans are pretty good at falling into such pits. One is the increase in the debt limit, which Congress will have to deal with in the next month or two. The other is immigration reform, which the Senate has passed and which awaits a decision from the House leadership on how to proceed.
Conservative activists tend to get excited at the prospect of a debt ceiling increase, since it allegedly gives them a rare moment of leverage over the president. There is already a conservative wish list of items that could be attached to the coming debt limit legislation. But as we saw in the somewhat analogous situation of the government shutdown in October, such leverage is often more theoretical than real, especially when you only control one house of Congress and are divided among yourselves in that chamber. With the country and the markets, egged on by the media, spooked by the threat of default, it’s not clear how much “leverage” House Republicans will really have.
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