By Sandy K. Johnson
Republicans’ joy at one-party domination of Congress and the White House may be short-lived.
Within the GOP, there are disagreements on policy and priorities. Immigration reform is opening fractures among Republicans. Tax reform is never easy. Spending limits will create roadblocks to President Donald Trump’s desire for more money to put toward defense and infrastructure. Even changing Obamacare will be a challenge, given support for certain provisions that have broad appeal.
“Unified Republican control is not a silver bullet,” said Sarah Binder, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution and a political science professor at George Washington University who has written four books on Congress. She spoke at a briefing on the issue sponsored by the National Press Foundation.
In addition, there is a procedural hurdle in the Senate, called cloture, that requires 60 votes to end debate on any given issue and move to a vote. There are 51 Republican senators (Louisiana will be settled in a Dec. 10 runoff), and they will need to woo Democrats to reach 60. This will shift with every issue.
Another potential wrench: The third branch of government, the judiciary, is currently packed with left-leaning judges from President Barack Obama’s eight years of federal appointments. The courts could thwart some GOP initiatives.
Every president eventually discovers he needs Congress to succeed. Incoming Vice President Mike Pence, a lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives for 12 years, appears to be filing the main role of liaison to Capitol Hill. But his very conservative views may rub moderate Republicans the wrong way.
Two more panelists had tips for reporters about covering Congress. Kristina Peterson, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, joked that reporters are “professional stalkers” on the Hill because you can walk anywhere in the Capitol and interview senators, House members and senior staff.
Seung Min Kim, a congressional reporter for Politico, said she has the best beat in Washington, covering 535 animated characters with agendas and ambitions. “The access is unparalleled in Washington,” Kim said. Even if you’re not assigned full-time to Congress, she suggested beat reporters should go to the Hill occasionally for the access – because every issue, i.e. every beat, has an intersection with legislation.