The incoming wave of Republican lawmakers is less thirsty for deep government cuts, but a deal to erase sequestration during the next congressional session is unlikely.
For several years, the kind of massive federal fiscal pact that would replace the much-maligned sequester cuts with other deficit-trimming measures has eluded Republicans and Democrats. GOP lawmakers calculated before last week’s midterm elections that securing control of the Senate would increase their power to strike a deal.
Control of both chambers would force the Obama administration and its Democratic congressional allies to accept the parameters of a deal that would at least void the defense portion of the last years of the sequester, Republican officials said.
In the House, sources said the incoming GOP class is less aligned with the tea party and its philosophy of slashing deficits at all costs than was the 2010 Republican class. That could allow House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, to push through a defense cuts-erasing fiscal deal without worrying about the 2010 class’ objections.
“This class is really a cross section,” said one defense sector lobbyist with ties to Republicans. “It really depends on where they come from. People from the South are more in line with tea party folks — they’re coming here to cut government. If they’re from New Jersey or the northern parts of the country, they’re not those kinds of folks.
“If Boehner has 246 or so seats,” the lobbyist said, “the question becomes, can he marginalize those tea party folks that are difficult and can he get to 218 yeses [to pass a sequester-canceling deal] with just Republicans.”
And in the Senate, the incoming group of Republicans is regarded as more practical than ideological. There’s Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, both military veterans with GOP establishment support, who have talked mostly about making Washington competent, not slashing and burning every government program they can get their hands on.
There’s Rep. Shelley Capito of West Virginia, who is a noted Boehner ally. Also moving across the Capitol complex will be Rep. Jim Lankford, R-Okla. Most recently, he served as chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, a group charged with fashioning policy. The tea party, on the other hand, has shown little interest in taking any actions except blocking or terminating federal programs.