Civil war looms for GOP

Conservatives salivating over the prospects of a huge victory on Nov. 4 are pressuring House and Senate GOP leaders to go big after Election Day.

The right argues leaders should forget about playing small ball and use momentum from the midterms to put big checks on President Obama’s agenda.

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“People want to see a bold vision. They want to see a real fight on ObamaCare repeal and tax reform that takes a blowtorch to the tax code. They want to see real entitlement reform, not empty talk,” one conservative GOP aide said.

“The American people don’t want Republicans to become appeasers and supporters of a watered down Obama agenda.”

The problem for Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerSudan sanctions spur intense lobbying OPINION | GOP's 7-year ObamaCare blood oath ends in failure A simple fix to encourage bipartisanship in the House MORE (R-Ohio), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCruz: Tax reform chances ‘drop significantly’ if healthcare fails Parliamentarian deals setback to GOP repeal bill OPINION | How Democrats stole the nation's lower federal courts MORE (R-Ky.) and other GOP leaders is that they will also face pressure to govern — which could involve cooperating with President Obama to keep the government operating and turn legislation into law.

They also must contend with a Senate map that will force the GOP to defend 24 seats in 2016, compared to just 10 for Democrats. Republicans facing reelection include senators from New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois and other states where Democrats could have an advantage — particularly in a presidential election year when turnout is high.

McConnell this week appeared to manage expectations for Republican rule, when he cautioned it would be difficult to repeal ObamaCare as long as Obama is in office.

“Well, it would take 60 votes in the Senate — nobody thinks we're going to have 60 Republicans — and it would take a presidential signature, and no one thinks we're going to get that,” he told Fox News host Neil Cavuto. “So the question is: What can you do about it?”

McConnell suggested it would be better to go after unpopular parts of the law rather than a full repeal, a position some conservatives saw as a capitulation.

“This is why nobody believes Mitch McConnell anymore,” said Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “He says he wants to rip ObamaCare out root and branch but then flips days before his election and says he plans to surrender.”

Cuccinelli said a GOP Senate could repeal ObamaCare through a process known as budget reconciliation, which would require just 51 votes in the Senate.

Under such a scenario, a GOP Congress still would need to overcome a White House veto to fully repeal ObamaCare, something that would take a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate. That would be a tough vote.

McConnell and Boehner appear more interested in approving an authorization of the Keystone XL oil pipeline; repealing the healthcare law’s medical device tax, which is unpopular with members of both parties; and moving trade legislation.

All of these measures could pick enough support to make it to Obama’s desk and win his signature.

They’d like to avoid a new standoff with the White House over ObamaCare or the funding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, either of which could lead to a new government shutdown.

Conservatives decry this as small ball.

“It’s laughable to think there’s going to be this huge up-swell from voters that will launch Republicans into a majority in the Senate and then Republicans will waste political chits on the Keystone XL pipeline, repealing the medical device tax, a handful of issues that most Americans don’t care about,” the conservative Senate Republican aide said.

Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzGOP wrestles with soaring deductibles in healthcare bill Cruz: Tax reform chances ‘drop significantly’ if healthcare fails Ex-CBO directors defend against GOP attacks on ObamaCare analysis MORE (R-Texas) led the pressure campaign on GOP leaders to take a more forceful stance against ObamaCare and the administration’s deferred action on deportations, and he expects to gain new allies if Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton (R), Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan (R) prevail on Tuesday.

“If all they do is keep their campaign promises, we’re going to be in very good shape because they’re all running as unabashed conservatives, and one of their top priorities is repealing ObamaCare,” said another conservative Senate GOP aide.

Cruz can already count on Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse, who is set to cruise to victory. Sasse has already had one tense meeting with McConnell after posting a video on YouTube calling on the leader to “show some actual leadership.”

A third conservative Senate Republican aide, however, cautioned that the election would likely increase the number of centrists in both chambers. They could push back against calls by conservatives.

“Sens. Cruz and Lee will likely have more allies with whom to exert pressure on Republican leadership, but don't forget that they will likely also have more moderates in the conference who will help leadership push back against such pressures and/or work with the Democrats,” the aide said.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) says the number of new conservatives joining the House conference would determine whether Boehner faces a serious leadership race after Election Day.

The prospect of Republicans picking up six to 12 House Democratic seats in addition to freshman Republicans replacing 24 Republican veterans who are either retiring or running for higher office means the House GOP conference could have as many as 40 new faces.

House GOP conservatives are looking ahead to an influx of like-minded allies, such as Barry Loudermilk (R) and Jody Hice (R) from Georgia, Mark Walker (R) from North Carolina, Gary Palmer (R) from Alabama, John Ratcliffe (R) of Texas and Dave Brat (R) of Virginia.

“It’s going to be more conservative,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a prominent House conservative, said of the makeup of the House GOP conference next year. “You see some of the guys who are going to win these seats. Walker, Loudermilk, Palmer, Ratcliffe. These are pretty conservative folks.

“I think that’s helpful,” he added.