Here are five potential consequences of Republicans capturing the Senate majority in the upcoming elections:

  1. Democrats’ only tool to stop GOP-crafted legislation from landing on President Obama’s desk will be their refusal to end debate on legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has largely shielded President Barack Obama by declining to vote on House-passed legislation. In a GOP-controlled Senate, Democrats might try to protect the president with the cloture vote, but doing so will force more moderate Democrats to take difficult political votes.
  2. When Democrats are unable to derail legislation in the Senate, Republicans will likely force the president to repeatedly veto legislation or compromise on signature political victories for Democrats. The optics of passing legislation through the House and Senate only to have it constantly vetoed by the President could give Republicans a powerful political narrative going into 2016.
  3. Republican control over the House and Senate will also change the battle over federal spending. Currently, the split in the House and the Senate has short-circuited the normal appropriations process. Republicans could restore the “normal” appropriations measures and break the funding of the federal government up into 12 separate appropriations bills. This would enable them to use the funding process to target some of the president’s executive actions on issues like immigration and energy policy without threatening a full government shutdown.
  4. While Republican majorities might harass a veto-happy President Obama for obstructing the legislative process, Senate Republicans would be able to stand in the way of his political appointments. If Republicans are successful at the polls, President Obama will likely try to confirm his next attorney general in December before the new Congress arrives in January. Republicans could then force President Obama to moderate his subsequent appointments, including important federal judgeships.
  5. As unlikely as it seems, a Senate and House in Republican hands could be a recipe for tactical compromise. Whether it is the Keystone XL oil pipeline or corporate tax reforms, both Democrats and Republicans may be looking to show their ability to work across the aisle to a nation fed up with partisan political gridlock. Republicans have their eye on the White House in 2016, and Democrats are optimistic about their chances of retaking the Senate should it fall to Republicans in 2014.

Republicans still have a long way to go to turn an increasing political probability into a reality, but their success could create an interesting new political dynamic in Washington.

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