Republicans openly gloated Thursday about their sweeping midterm victories and said they can finally pass legislation long opposed by President Obama and Democrats.
During a post-election briefing, Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Senate Democrats hurt themselves during this year’s midterm elections by not using President Obama more on the campaign trail.
“They sidelined their best messenger,” he said. The irony, of course, is that Republicans used the hugely unpopular Obama against Democrats in almost every crucial contest.
And Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) basked in the glow of what will be the largest House majority in the modern era by laying out his plans to pass legislation that he said would signal “a new start” on Capitol Hill. But nothing he proposed doing is actually new.
At his first post-election news conference, Boehner said there will be quick action to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, passage of a veterans’ employment bill and proposals to strip apart the Affordable Care Act, including a repeal of a tax on medical devices and an independent review board of medical experts.
Boehner was especially emphatic on immigration, warning President Obama against taking executive action to revamp the nation’s immigration laws. Boehner said that if Obama acted unilaterally, there would be “no chance” for a broader congressional debate on the subject.
Taken together, Boehner’s litany of legislative proposals and his warning to Obama signaled that he saw little need to extend an olive branch to Democrats.
“My job’s not to get along with the president just to get along with him — although we actually have a nice relationship,” he said. “The fact is, my job is to listen to my members and listen to the American people and make their priorities my priorities.”
Boehner conceded that a full repeal of the health law is unlikely given the makeup of the Senate, but he added that, “Just because we may not be able to get everything we want doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get what we can.”
“There are bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate to take some of these issues out of Obamacare,” he added later. “We need to put them on the president’s desk and make him choose.”
Boehner was notably less conciliatory in his remarks than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who suggested Wednesday that there might be room for bipartisan agreement on economic issues.
The victorious political team that orchestrated the Republican Senate wins across the country was talking about more than just its own triumphs, willingly offering critiques about the Democrats’ failed game plan.
Collins, the NRSC executive director, cited Colorado, where Rep. Cory Gardner (R) unseated Sen. Mark Udall (D) and where he said Democrats had failed to talk about how the state’s unemployment rate declined under Obama’s watch. Instead, Udall focused relentlessly on criticizing Gardner’s positions on abortion and contraception.
“They left their base behind,” Collins said.
Collins and his colleagues said the effectiveness of their get-out-the-vote operation was impressive, especially when compared with the outsize attention paid to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s $60 million, 11-state ground operation code named the “Bannock Street Project,” after the location of the Denver field headquarters for the 2010 campaign of Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who chaired the DSCC this year.
NRSC spokesman Brad Dayspring lampooned the Democrats’ turnout, calling it “The New Coke” of the 2014 cycle.
Ward Baker, the NRSC’s political director, said party operatives were especially mindful of their recent history of candidate gaffes.
“We didn’t just win this election on Tuesday. It started a year ago by deciding we couldn’t be Akin’d anymore. No more witches. No more gaffes,” he said.
Baker was referring to Todd Akin in 2012 and Christine O’Donnell in 2010 — disastrous GOP Senate nominees in Missouri and Delaware, respectively, who sunk the party’s chances of winning states that had been poised to flip.
Republicans have picked up seven seats thus far and could gain two more. In Alaska, Republican Dan Sullivan leads Sen. Mark Begich (D) as additional votes are still being counted. In Louisiana, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) faces a Dec. 6 run-off against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R). Pre-election polls have shown Cassidy in the lead.
The DSCC confirmed Thursday that it has canceled some of the advertising time it had reserved for Landrieu.
NRSC officials said they will have the funds to compete as needed in Louisiana despite having about $9 million in debt.
Jose A. DelReal contributed to this report.