GOP leaders hope to maintain party unity by doing nothing for the rest of the year

With no major deadlines on the horizon, Republican leadership wants to simply wait for November

Topics: John Boehner, Robert Costa, Election 2014, The Washington Post, Obamacare, Vin Weber, Devin Nunes, Frank Luntz, ,

The debt ceiling has been lifted, an omnibus spending bill has been passed, the farm bill is finished and a bipartisan budget has been signed by President Obama. All the must-pass legislation of this Congress, in other words, has been dealt with, leaving leaders in the House GOP with one big choice and three options.

The choice: What to do between now and November’s congressional elections.

The options:

  1. Push for immigration reform.
  2. Push for tax reform.
  3. Do absolutely nothing and hope that saying some combination of “Obamacare” and “Benghazi” every 30 seconds between now and November will be enough to maintain the Republican hold on the House and retake the majority in the Senate.

Spoiler alert! They’re going with option No. 3.

According to Robert Costa of the Washington Post, congressional GOP leadership has decided that in order to maintain party unity and put themselves in the best position to win in November, Republicans would be best off doing a whole lot of nothing for the next nine months.

“We don’t have 218 votes in the House for the big issues, so what else are we going to do?” California GOP Rep. Devin Nunes told Costa. “We can do a few things on immigration and work on our principles, but in terms of real legislating, we’re unable to get in a good negotiating position.”

While the GOP has a clear majority in the House, Nunes’ remarks reflect the divided nature of the Republican caucus, in which the Tea Party faction is too small to command a governing majority, but is large enough to keep less-conservative GOPers from getting anything done.

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Republicans’ decision to wait out the remainder of 2014 is, according to GOP pollster and spinmeister Frank Luntz, “[A]n acknowledgment of where they stand, where nothing can happen in divided government so we may essentially have the status quo.”

“Significant immigration reform and fundamental tax reform are probably not going to happen,” he added.

That’s not to say that Republicans will literally do nothing, however. On the contrary, they plan to introduce a slew of bills that have no chance of passing but will supposedly win the support of undecided swing-voters. Costa reports that a bill to fully repeal and replace Obamacare is planned to be released in the spring or the summer, and that GOP leaders hope to introduce similarly DOA bills focused on jobs, energy and regulations.

“It’s a natural progression,” Minnesota Republican Rep. Vin Weber told Costa, speaking of the party’s new plan. “If you’re a Republican in Congress, you’ve learned that when we shut down the government, we lose. Now that we’ve had some success in avoiding another shutdown, our fortunes seem to be rising, so maybe we don’t want big things to happen.”

Now there’s a bumper-sticker. “Vote Republican in 2014: We don’t want big things to happen.”

Elias Isquith
Elias Isquith is a staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith.

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