House Republican Strategy for 2014 Victory: Think Small, Do Little

With the generic ballot surprisingly turning their way, no one wants to jinx it

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

House Speaker John Boehner rebukes conservative groups that oppose the pending bipartisan budget compromise during a news conference on Capitol Hill on Dec. 12, 2013

Correction appended: Dec. 15, 2013, 10:00 p.m. E.T.

If House Republicans had it their way, the election would be moved up 11 months and held this week. “Ideally, we’d freeze things the way they are in amber until November,” says one senior GOP House aide. “But, obviously, that’s not possible.”

Just two months ago, Washington was buzzing about how House Speaker John Boehner might lose his 16-seat majority in the wake of the government shutdown. After all, the only other time in recent history when the party out of power lost seats in second-term midterm election was in 1998 after Republicans overreached in their oversight of Bill Clinton.

But along came the great Obamacare debacle, and suddenly Democrats saw their 7-point advantage in generic congressional polling flip. At the end of October, Democrats held a 47% to 40% advantage over Republicans; by Dec. 12, Republicans led Democrats 44% to 41%, according to the Real Clear Politics’ average of national polls. “The biggest threat to Republicans are themselves, particularly if they were to shut the government down again,” says David Wasserman, who follows House races for Cook Political Report. He predicts that if the election were to be held today Republicans would net five to 10 seats.

A desire to avoid the government shutdown triggered two days of Boehner screeds this week against meddling outside groups who condemned the budget deal hammered out by Republican Representative Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray. Calling the groups “ridiculous,” Boehner warned they are “using our members and using the American people for their own goals.” Several conservative groups raised millions of dollar off the last government shutdown and are again calling for another shutdown. It is only Obama’s unforced error with the implementation of Obamacare that salvaged those poll numbers for Republicans.

Afraid of squandering this unforeseen gift, Republicans are treading lightly, hoping they can freeze the electorate’s mood for the next 11 months, a tall order given the pace of news. Little is scheduled to happen next year, legislatively speaking. Congress is expected to wrap up work started this year on the Farm Bill, the National Defense Authorization Bill, the budget and Trade Promotion Authority. They may also attempt to pass a small immigration package, which would not pass the Senate, aiming to inoculate House Republicans from Latino-voter ire since the Senate’s comprehensive bill has died in the House.

But House majority leader Eric Cantor has told his colleagues that he is afraid, for example, to tackle tax reform despite the insistence of Way and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp, who is eager to push through a bipartisan bill he hammered out with Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus. Cantor fears a big compromise or even whiff of a grand bargain could set off the restless GOP base. “There is a sense of ‘don’t mess with the sleeping beast, as much as possible,’” says another senior House GOP aide.

This comes after Congress reached new lows in productivity in 2012. So far fewer than 60 bills have been signed into law this session. If Congress continues at this pace, it will be the least productive of any in the past 40 years. This presents a risk to the don’t-rock-the-boat strategy. If doing something represents a risk, so too does doing nothing. The only thing voters may hate more than specific pieces of legislation is the complete lack of any action at all.

An earlier version of this article misstated Eric Cantor’s congressional title. He is the House majority leader, not the minority leader.

94 comments
krw1943
krw1943

Getting behind the idiotic TAX & SPEND budget worming its way thru the slime of WashDC is doing "nothing"? Where are TIME's editorial offices? In a cave in Siberia? Further, Boehner is bad mouthing his own party, denigrating those among its ranks who are looking for intelligent leadership, those who still have some conservative ideals left and are not acting as appendages to the ideologically perverted Obama administration. This is NOT doing nothing!  On the contrary, this is akin to having a death wish for what's left of the Grand Old Party. A Boy Scout troop could do better at leadership than Boehner! Boehner is beginning to look like an Obama clone, and God knows we only need one Obama, if you haven't noticed!

ThomasHall
ThomasHall

The GOP have thought small since Pres. Obama was elected as their goal was not to increase jobs or to improve the economy but instead to oppose everything and to nullify the 2008 election hoping to use their sabotaged economy to unseat Pres. Obama in 2012 but failed.

Notice that left to the right-wing extremists, we would not have bailed out Wall St. or the auto industry, would not have passed the ARRA stimulus--all of which worked and turned an economy around that was in freefall and created nearly eight million jobs. Notice what has been accomplished since the GOP regained the House in 2010 thanks to a low 43% voter turnout, the GOP-SCOTUS Citizens United corruption of democracy, GOP gerrymangering and their nationwide voter suppression efforts. 

 Notice how job and economic growth slowed, how it slowed again following the GOP baggies manufactured debt ceiling crisis in 2011 whereby Americans lost millions when the dysfunction GOP frightened investors and dropped the DOW 2,500 and cost American another $19 billion in debt interest. Notice that the GOP cost America another $24 billion following their shutdown of the government to kill the ACA.
The GOP has historically NEVER represented the working class and most of the problems that America and working class Americans face today were caused by the pro-rich, anti-poor, anti-worker GOP.

chacalcdn
chacalcdn

Of course if you think SMALL you will do LITTLE.


The laziest bunch in years and they still get their FULL salaries and GOODIES ?


Have they no SHAME when they cross hard working people ?


I am not ashamed to cash my check, I have earned it.

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

The U S House has the "do little" part down pat.  They haven't done anything in years/  

gmonsen
gmonsen

Lord, what a wonderful strategy.  Makes great sense.  While the Democrats seem to be playing Russian roulette with a fully loaded revolver, don't do anything to rock the boat until they've unloaded all 6 chambers into their election chances.  I expect that when the GOP wins the Senate, we'll see an astounding number of bills being passed by a remarkably productive Congress.  The public will then see veto after veto from the President and won't that help public perception of where the real obstruction is.    

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

@Diecash1 I raise sheep and that was an insult to them.  They are smarter than the average Republican and far smarter than the four zeros" that represent this state.

Diecash1
Diecash1

Well, I suppose that's true since your sheep can't shut down the government.

Diecash1
Diecash1

Nothing is best thing that the repubs can do. They're a party of sheep led by idiots. The only people dumber than them are the fools that vote for them.

Don't worry yourself about them taking over anything any time soon. They're not finished with the circular firing squad yet.

ThomasHall
ThomasHall

gmonsen--Just like the GOP Romney-Ryan won the elction in 2012 as the GOP and Fox News predicted.

Notice the GOP which have created the bulk of our crippling National Debt, which was less than $800 billion through Carter, just since Reagan who TRIPLED it, GHW Bush added to it with costly military invasions, and GW Bush more than DOUBLED it yet again while leaving trillions in unpaid bills behind.

Notice the GOP only become deficit hawks and "conservatives" when out of the White House while putting the burdens on the poor in order to maintain corporate welfare, subsidies, and tax breaks for the rich which they have historically represented not working class America.

roknsteve
roknsteve

And the teenie weenie repubs got smaller and smaller and did less and less and then one day they disappeared.     

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@paulejb Is that before or after they shut down the Government yet again over the debt ceiling?

jmac
jmac

@paulejb  "No one knows more about politics than Michael Barone. "   In heavy print, no less!


Barone predicted a generous victory for Mitt Romney in the electoral college in the Washington Examiner - Romney 315, Obama 223.    


Just because Megyn pulled him in to tell Karl Rove that the dream was dead doesn't mean he's not a partisan hack who looks everywhere he can to read the tea leaves.   Even a blind person could have read those tea leaves at that call.  

Fastgirl
Fastgirl

The Dems would be doing the same if their positions were reversed.

ThomasHall
ThomasHall

The GOP have thought small since Pres. Obama was elected as their goal was not to increase jobs or to improve the economy but instead to oppose everything and to nullify the 2008 election hoping to use their sabotaged economy to unseat Pres. Obama in 2012 but failed. Notice that left to the right-wing extremists, we would not have bailed out Wall St. or the auto industry, would not have passed the ARRA stimulus--all of which worked and turned an economy around that was in freefall and created nearly eight million jobs. Notice what has been accomplished since the GOP regained the House in 2010 thanks to a low 43% voter turnout, the GOP-SCOTUS Citizens United corruption of democracy, GOP gerrymangering and their nationwide voter suppression efforts.  Notice how job and economic growth slowed, how it slowed again following the GOP baggies manufactured debt ceiling crisis in 2011 whereby Americans lost millions when the dysfunction GOP frightened investors and dropped the DOW 2,500 and cost American another $19 billion in debt interest. Notice that the GOP cost America another $24 billion following their shutdown of the government to kill the ACA.

The GOP has historically NEVER represented teh working class and most of teh problems that America and working class Americans face today were caused by the pro-rich, anti-poor, anti-worker GOP.

Fastgirl
Fastgirl

@ThomasHall The Dems had control of both houses of Congress during the last two years of Bush's presidency and the first two of Obama's. They could have done  anything they wanted.  

fitty_three
fitty_three

@Fastgirl 

Fact #1 Only 26 days after feb 20, 2009.

Fact #2 Bush Presidency: Veto Pen

Fact #3 You didn't pass civics 089.

tom.litton
tom.litton

@Fastgirl@ThomasHallJust a couple of things to add here. 


First, they did do a lot of major things given the time that they had: stimulus, healthcare, Dodd-Frank, etc. 


Second, Democrats are far less divided then Republicans.  So if you only include things all Democratic senators and a majority of Democratic representatives wanted, it is a fairly short list.

BruceS78
BruceS78

Wouldn't want to do anything good for the country.  Can't do tax reform, might offend someone's tax loophole.  Can't do banking reform might offend some banker.  Can't do political campaign reform might offend some loud mouth or not get re-elected.  Can't fix the highways might offend someone driving a car or truck by increasing the gas tax.  Can't fix education, might offend some jerk that never has read a book since leaving high school.  Can't, Can't, Can't.

Meanwhile our roads are falling apart, many of our kids can't write a simple English sentence, and our political campaigns consist of meaningless platitudes and vicious attack ads funded by very invisible people and corporations.

tommyudo
tommyudo

@BruceS78 


Everything you say is 100% correct and that's why America is Exceptional , as in exceptionally living on past laurels.

golf7buddy
golf7buddy

@BruceS78- At least you are consistently following your Leader - Obama. He is the expert at blaming others for whatever that ails this country. Including Obamacare - he and Sebelius want to conduct an inquiry as to how Obamacare was so fouled up. What a joke. If Obama was any kind of an administrator, he should have checked and re-checked. Blacks just don't make a good leader or administrator.


It has been 5 years since Obama took office and the only thing he has achieved in those 5 years is giving out Free Cell Phones and increase the number of Welfare Check recipients. Poverty level is at record high and labor participation is at the lowest. Pl don't repeat the UN-employment numbers published by Obama Govt - it is like reading a fiction novel.

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

@golf7buddy


You should look into the issue of Wealth Inequality in this country.  That's what's to blame for the increased erosion of the Middle Class and the increase of the 47%'ers in this country.  It's wealth inequality and not Obama.