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The disaster of a GOP-led Congress

Tribune-Review
| Saturday, November 1, 2014 9:00 p.m
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With two days to go until the midterms, and with polls pointing to the prospect that Republicans could take control of the Senate, the stakes are high — not just for the Obama administration and congressional Democrats but for the United States. The consequences of Republican control of both the House and Senate could be catastrophic for the environment, workers, women and minorities.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has promised a gathering of donors hosted by the Koch brothers that “We’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals … things like raising the minimum wage … extending unemployment … the student loan package.”

It won’t be just progressive proposals that are stymied. Consider the judges who will never make it to the bench, including the highest, when it is Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and not Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., in charge of the Judiciary Committee. Consider the destabilizing political circus Republicans will create for the Obama administration and the nation when Rep. Darrell Issa’s, R-Calif., hyper-partisan investigations into fake scandals spread from the House to the Senate.

If Republicans take charge of key Senate committees, they will restrict and remake the range of debate. What happens, for example, when Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., formerly president of the right-wing Club for Growth, takes over Sen. Sherrod Brown’s, D-Ohio, subcommittee that oversees financial institutions and consumer protection? What happens to the Iran nuclear negotiations if McConnell, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., are deciding when to bring up a sanctions bill?

Perhaps the most worrying consequence of a Republican-controlled Senate will be the extension of an already damaging austerity agenda. Working Americans who have suffered through years of a stagnant economy will see their livelihoods threatened by the shifting power dynamic in Washington.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and McConnell (if he survives the challenge by Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes) will be able to send hundreds of bills to the president’s desk for his signature or veto. What happens when they send him a bill to prevent a default on our debt at the 11th hour, attached to a bill that ravages Social Security? The Republican Party will gain the power to force the president to choose between impossible options.

In a democracy, there is no such thing as an election without consequences. Many progressives are not satisfied with today’s Democratic Party; they want it to be more populist and progressive. But they also know it is absurd to suggest that there are no differences between the two major parties and it is madness to suggest that little would change if Republicans take the Senate.

A Republican Senate, working with a Republican House, would be a wrecking crew. There is only one way to avert the devastation: Vote with a vengeance on Nov. 4.

Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor and publisher of The Nation magazine.

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