With four days until the 2014 election results start to trickle in, the polls are up and down. A week ago, carpet-bagger Scott Brown and former Massachusetts GOP senator, was even with New Hampshire’s Democratic incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. Now he’s down by 8 points. The robotic creature for the New York Times, assigned with determine winners, reported that its conclusions were 3 percent accurate. The GOP is chortling—at least publicly–that it’s taking over the senate. This is what we can expect if Republicans have a majority by January 1, 2015:
Agenda control through the budget process: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy.” It will be a return to 2011 when Congress threatened to not raise the debt limit to pay for what they had already spent as well as 13 months ago when the GOP shut down the government 13 months ago in an attempt to get their own way and cost the economy at least $24 billion.
More tax cuts for the wealthy and further spending cuts for middle- and working-class families: Although the senate needs 60 votes to break a filibuster, congressional budget resolutions can squeak through with an ordinary majority of 51 votes and cannot be filibustered. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) 2015 budget bill sent to the senate gives those making over $1 million another $200,000 in tax cuts while cutting nondefense spending by $4.8 trillion. Almost 70 percent of that money takes from programs helping low-income and middle-class families—Medicaid, Pell Grants for college, etc. The GOP also wants to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. Right now, the reality is an average U.S. corporate tax rate at 27 percent with small businesses paying a disproportionately large percentage because of loopholes and subsidies for the big companies. GOP leaders claim that they will close these loopholes, but they can’t afford to do this because they’ll lose campaign funding. GOP austerity cost the economy 2.4 million jobs from December 2010 to October 2013.
Obstruction of well-qualified judicial nominees, leaving vacancies on federal courts: The record shows continued filibustering of the president’s judicial nominees. Only 16 judicial nominees were filibustered during George W. Bush’s eight years compared to the 77 nominees from President Obama filibustered in a six and a half years. There would have been more than 77 if the senate had not changed its rules to require a simple majority vote for reasonable debate times for these nominees. A GOP senate means the return of the filibuster for judicial confirmations. Currently federal courts have 63 vacancies and 32 judicial nominees.
Another vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act: The GOP has promised that the first vote would be to repeal the ACA if they control the senate. The vote would take place at a time that the uninsured rate is at a record low: 7.3 million enrolled and paying premiums through the marketplaces; 8 million with health coverage through Medicaid; and 5 million signed up for ACA-compliant plans outside the marketplace. And that’s with almost half the states refusing to participate in the ACA. Insurers also cannot deny coverage with a pre-existing condition or put lifetime and annual coverage limits on their care. They have to spend at least of the premiums on health care and cover young people up to the age of 26 on their parents’ policies.
Greater rollback of women’s health needs: McConnell says he will push for narrower exemptions on abortions after 20 weeks than the Supreme Court has allowed. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) has a bill to allow businesses the ability to refuse contraceptive coverage for their employees. Before the ACA required equal insurance charges for both genders, women were charged up to 150 percent more than men for the same coverage. Over 48 million women receive preventive care without deductibles or co-payments and saved $483 million on just birth control pills, $269 per woman, because of ACA.
Use of the Congressional Review Act to weaken environmental rules, jeopardizing public health: Congress can pass a joint resolution stopping a major rule submitted to the legislative branch. The senate can accomplish this in 60 days without any possibility of a filibuster. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said that he will challenge every EPA rule under the current administration, including the proposal to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants by up to 30 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. The rule would curb dangerous pollution, save money on energy bills, and improve public health by avoiding 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in children every year. Full implementation would save $93 billion in 2030. For every dollar, people will see $7 in benefits.
Expansion of carrying concealed and loaded guns: The NRA wants the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, allowing people to get gun permits in states that have the weakest gun safety laws and carry them all over the United States. This is a race to the bottom as states with the weakest standards set national standards for these permits. People like George Zimmerman, who killed a teenage boy and has a history of violence including assaulting a police officer and domestic violence, would have permission to carry his gun everywhere instead of in only those states with weaker gun safety laws. Local law enforcement would have no recourse. This legislation failed by only two votes in 2009 and was included in the compromise measure developed by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). Fortunately, it was three votes short of breaking the filibuster because it could have passed with 57 votes.
Legislation removing any LGBT rights: At this time, 33 states recognize marriage equality with another three that may soon marry same-sex couples after courts release rulings. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has announced that he will be “introducing a constitutional amendment to prevent the federal government or the courts from attacking or striking down state marriage laws.” Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, reiterated the party’s support for a constitutional amendment that would unmarry loving and committed same-sex couples. The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act currently pending in Congress would, if passed, allow for government-sanctioned discrimination against the LGBT community and gut existing workplace protections for the now thousands of legally married same-sex couples employed by the federal government or its contractors. For example, this Act would permit federal workers to ignore paperwork from same-sex couples for processing tax returns, approving visa applications, or reviewing Social Security applications and allow a federally funded homeless shelter or substance abuse treatment program to turn away LGBT people.
Legislation to deport DREAMers: Children who were brought to the United States and who meet strict criteria may currently stay in the U.S. and work legally. A senate bipartisan bill that passed 68 to 32 would have made this administrative rule into law as part of immigration reform for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, but the House refused to consider the bill. A GOP senate would most likely reverse its former position on immigration reform. Cruz said he would “use any and all means necessary” to prevent the administration from allowing undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to stay in the place they know as home.
More cuts to programs and rules that increase college access, affordability, and readiness: Ryan’s budget cuts Pell Grants by $90 billion, makes monthly student loan payments higher, and eliminates $107 billion from early education and K-12 education programs over the next decade. A GOP senate would most likely block regulations on for-profit colleges with a history of predatory practices that saddle students with higher rates of debt and low-quality degrees and charge 3.5 times as much as public institutions for the same degree.
On the other hand, the GOP may suffer if it wins the senate. The Tea Party will put more leverage on the GOP establishment to toe the far-right line. Their unwillingness to compromise and move to the right will cause them to lose more voters in 2016, including those for the president. Repealing health care, rejecting minorities, and taking more rights from women will lose the party a huge constituency.
The GOP may win some seats this year because they keep minorities and low-income people from voting, but these people will have the next two years to get the necessary ID. In addition, the courts may overturn the discrimination of the new voter suppression laws. Judicial rulings during the past few weeks to keep these laws have cited only an excuse that they can’t be changed this close to the election. During the next year, there will be many lawsuits from people denied their constitutional right to vote in next week’s election.