New Troubles For Even a Triumphant Mitch

Mitch McConnell has had an anxiety-filled year. He’s had to put up with an intermittently scary Democratic opponent that he’s had to fight with cascades of money dragging her down to his own low level of popularity. And he’s had to worry about whether his party could fully exploit the most favorable landscape since 1994 and give him the Majority Leader’s gavel.

But as veteran Congress-watcher Norm Ornstein points out in an erudite column at National Journal today, control of the Senate will pose new problems for ol’ Mitch, and not just because the White House remains in Democratic hands. The more enduring problem is that he’ll be dealing with up to seven senators who are running for re-election in blue states in a presidential year; three-to-five senators running for president; and then the House, where the dynamics that led to a government shutdown and the destruction of immigration reform legislation may well be more intense than before. So a lot of the gabbing about what McConnell “wants to do” between 2014 and 2016 may be more academic than anyone is recognizing just yet. And then there’s this:

I have talked off the record to some aides to tea-party Republicans in the House, who say that they are getting a lot of push from their activist voters to impeach the president. They, like their leaders, know how catastrophic that would be for Republicans heading into 2016 and will do what they can to head off any such move by hotheads. But if we assume that the president, determined to enhance and extend his legacy, implements major executive orders on immigration and climate change, there will be howls of outrage from the base and many lawmakers, and the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Erick Erickson, and Laura Ingraham will not be holding them back. More than likely, neither would Ted Cruz. Another challenge for House and Senate Republican leaders to keep their party from veering off the edge.

Yes, yes, we all know Boehner and McConnell and all sorts of “responsible” GOP leaders have ruled out impeachment. But after six years of demonizing Obama, they won’t be able to just wish the fever away if some “provocative” act like a DACA expansion or big-time utility regs or a veto of the Keystone XL pipeline occurs.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.