Expect the new GOP majorities in Congress to press forward with a governing agenda, avoiding the intra-party conflicts of years past.
In Washington, narratives last long past their sell-by date. One of the most common tropes is that Republicans are controlled by the far-right wing of the party and have little ability to govern. That was certainly true for several years, in the wake of their party’s wipeouts in 2006 and 2008, along with the subsequent tea-party wave in 2010 that gave Republicans control of the House. Of the 66 Democratic seats that House Republicans picked up that year, more than half (36) were in solidly red districts John McCain carried in the 2008 presidential election. Many of those newly elected members hailed from the GOP’s tea-party wing, reflecting their conservative constituencies. With little room to maneuver, House Speaker John Boehner had trouble managing a fractious caucus and found himself battling his own party as much as the Democrats. The 2013 government shutdown marked the party’s low point, with leadership at the mercy of several dozen uncompromising conservative backbenchers.
But many pundits are mistakenly looking to the past to determine the future of the new Republican-controlled Congress. With Republicans determined to improve their image in the run-up to a presidential election, and a crop of new, more-pragmatic members heading to Washington, all the signs suggest that the GOP will be eager to unite and advance a legislative agenda.