GOP Eyes Agenda for Senate

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from The Wall Street Journal,

As Election Hopes Grow, Party Plans Strategy to Pass Priorities, Avoid Brinkmanship.

As odds improve that the GOP will control both chambers of Congress next year, Senate Republicans are starting to plan an agenda intended to extract policy concessions from President Barack Obama without inducing the capital’s market-rattling brinkmanship of recent years.

Republican senators say the emerging plans aim to show voters that the party can successfully govern—enacting GOP policy while avoiding a sharply confrontational tone that some Republicans fear could endanger the party’s electoral prospects in 2016. Some of the top goals include approving the Keystone XL pipeline, passing accelerated rules for overseas trade agreements, speeding up federal reviews of natural-gas exports and repealing the 2010 health law’s medical-device tax.

Republicans control the House and need to gain six seats for a majority in the Senate, an outcome that independent analysts say is increasingly likely due to Mr. Obama’s low approval ratings and an election map that forces Democrats to defend seats in some GOP-leaning states.

Top Republicans from each Senate committee have been meeting “for some time” to discuss which bills stand the best chance of clearing a GOP-controlled Congress.

Republicans aren’t expected to win the 60 seats needed in the Senate to overcome Democratic procedural hurdles on most legislation, leading some in the GOP to aim for opportunities to pull policy modestly to the right and at least map out priorities for bigger issues like overhauling the tax code.

Mr. Obama, in a Labor Day speech Monday in Milwaukee, urged voters not to let Republicans set the national agenda.

“They oppose almost everything,” Mr. Obama said in comments aimed at motivating Democratic voters. “They oppose stuff they used to be for. They used to be for building roads and bridges.” When the crowd booed the GOP, Mr. Obama said: “It’s easy to boo. I want you to vote.”

Regaining a Senate majority would give Republicans full control of Congress for the first time since 2007. It also would end what has been a relative rarity in Congress: divided control of the House and Senate. Five of the past 10 Congresses, dating to 1995, have been under Republican control, with two under Democratic control and the bulk of three sessions divided.

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