Conventional wisdom has it that Republicans will take control of the Senate in November. Conventional wisdom further has it that they will lose control again in 2016 and that our presumed next President will be Hillary Clinton. True? Who knows. Conventional wisdom on the Senate has flipped and my flip again. A lackluster economy and a war dragging on in the Middle East could deliver the presidency to the Republicans in 2016. But let's play some what if.
What should be expect if Republicans win the Senate in November?
I am guessing, a refusal to confirm any Obama nominees whatever. (I am further guessing that the lame duck session will recognize this and ram through as many nominees as possible and Republicans will say that lame ducks are behaving badly and cry foul. Or fowl?) Or rather, Republicans will chose who they think should hold each office and inform Obama that if he does not nominate their choice, no one else will be confirmed. This is at least semi-defensible, in the sense that it is how things work in a parliamentary system with a vestigial executive. The majority in parliament chooses the nominees and the Queen or other vestigial executive goes through the formality of choosing them. It is certainly a lot more defensible than the filibuster, which was essentially a Senate minority demanding the right to choose nominees. But it is not our tradition. It is a clearly established precedent at least since Andrew Johnson's day that the President should be allowed to hire and fire whatever executive appointments he wishes, subject only to rejection of someone really corrupt or crazy.
Legislation will be impossible, but it has been impossible since 2011, so that won't be new.
Government shutdowns and debt ceiling standoffs will become more common as Republicans see themselves as having the muscle to get their way. Besides, they have been reigning themselves in in anticipation of winning the election and now can go all-out. How far they will try to force it is anyone's guess. What the Republicans still don't seem to understand is that if a measure is unpopular on its own merits, it won't become any more popular if forced over in a government shutdown or debt ceiling standoff.
What if Republicans win the triple crown in 2016? My guess is that they will start shelving a lot of their nuttier ideas, realizing that they are a lot more popular when talked about than actually implemented. Huge cuts in the top marginal tax rate. Deficits will turn out only to matter when a Democrat is in the White House. But above all, Republicans will breath a sigh of relief that the horror of a Democrat in the White House has finally ended and that the United States will NEVER AGAIN be forced to endure such a travesty. Of course, we will. And what the Republican freak out will look like then is something I would rather not even imagine.