GOP feels pressure to deliver after election rout

GOP feels pressure to deliver after election rout
© Greg Nash

The Democratic sweep in Tuesday’s elections has raised the pressure on Republicans to make good on their campaign promises.

Republican senators downplayed any setback to their tax-reform push from the elections, but said the results drove home the need to deliver legislative wins before votes are cast in 2018. 

“I do think, however, that it does speak to the need for us to get accomplishments. ... I think right now there's a general frustration in the country that even though we've gotten some things done on our agenda, that some of the big ticket items remain incomplete,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Dems push for more money for opioid fight MORE (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, told reporters. 

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat Meghan McCain knocks Bannon: 'Who the hell are you' to criticize Romney? Dems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress MORE (R-Ariz.) said he “predicted” the rough election night and that the party needs to make changes quickly before the midterms arrive. 

"Unless we get our act together, we're going to lose heavily," he said.

Asked if Tuesday's elections showed the need for a "course correction," Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerFormer Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report McConnell 'almost certain' GOP will pass tax reform Former New Mexico gov: Trump's foreign policy is getting 'criticized by everybody' MORE (R-Tenn.), who has emerged as one of Trump's loudest critics, smirked before adding, "maybe that's potentially self-evident." 

"I've certainly made some observations, but I'll keep them to myself," he said. 

Democrats won victories up and down the ballot on Tuesday night, their first major election wins since the devastating results of 2016. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAmerica isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash Schumer celebrates New York Giants firing head coach: ‘About time’ GOP should reject the left's pessimism and the deficit trigger MORE (D-N.Y.) and Democratic Sens. Tim KaineTimothy Michael KaineDemocrats turn on Al Franken Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Senate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank MORE (Va.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Comey back in the spotlight after Flynn makes a deal Warner: Every week another shoe drops in Russia investigation MORE (Va.) took a victory lap on Wednesday, holding a press conference with reporters to talk about the election and tax reform.  

“The combination of the embrace of policies that are so far away from where America is … the fact that President Trump is not leading but tweeting, and the fact that our Republican colleagues … are afraid to change course, when you put that all together, a wave, where Democrats are going to do really well in the House and Senate, is shaping up,” Schumer said. 

Schumer added that when he took over the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2005 he was “smelling a wave” for 2006 and “I’m getting the same feelings now.” 

Democrats on Tuesday held onto the Virginia governor’s mansion and made significant gains at the state legislature, with control of the House of Delegates still up for grabs, pending recounts.

Taking stock of the results, Republicans broadly agreed that voters are dissatisfied with what they’ve accomplished in Congress this year.

“We’ve got to be RINOs — Republicans in Need of Outcomes,” Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Grassley offers DACA fix tied to tough enforcement measures We are running out of time to protect Dreamers MORE (R-N.C.) told reporters, asked about Tuesday night’s elections.  

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (R-Maine), appearing to point to exit polling, said it was “significant” that so many voters in Virginia named health care as a key issue.  

"I think that it shows that Republicans need to put forth constructive legislation ... when it comes to health care. Rather than trying to completely repeal the [Affordable Care Act], we should be focusing on trying to fix its flaws,” Collins said.  

Collins was one of three GOP senators who opposed the ObamaCare effort in July. She also helped sink legislation from GOP Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (S.C.) and Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyTax bill could fuel push for Medicare, Social Security cuts Collins to vote for GOP tax plan Overnight Tech: Lawmakers want answers on Uber breach | Justices divided in patent case | Tech makes plea for net neutrality on Cyber Monday MORE (La.) that would have turned ObamaCare’s mandates and exchanges into block grants to the states.  

NBC News exit polling showed that 37 percent of voters in Virginia — more than one in every three — said health care was the most important issue to them. 

Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranMcConnell works to salvage tax bill GOP in furious push for tax-reform votes Overnight Tech: Lawmakers want answers on Uber breach | Justices divided in patent case | Tech makes plea for net neutrality on Cyber Monday MORE (R-Kan.) said the message to his colleagues is “more than just tax reform, more than just repeal and replace. We need to be working on issues that affect American citizens day in and day out."

"We ought to be paying attention to what transpired in Virginia. It’s nothing that Republicans can say, it’s irrelevant, it didn’t matter. There is a message out there and we need to take some time and discern what that is,” Moran told CNN. 

Republicans have struggled to make good on their years-long campaign pledges despite having the first unified GOP government in a decade.  

But not every senator appeared convinced that Tuesday's election results should be cause for alarm. 

Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsTrump should fill CFPB vacancy with Export-Import chief Tax bill could fuel push for Medicare, Social Security cuts Senate passes tax overhaul, securing major GOP victory MORE (R-S.D.) said that he didn't think there were a lot of "big surprises." 

"Virginia has always been sort of a blue state to begin with," he said. "Traditionally, after you have a change in the White House, it’s been very difficult for the elections after that to follow with the president’s party necessarily winning.”

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Air Force makes criminal reporting changes after Texas massacre We need a better pathway for allowing civilians to move guns across state lines MORE (R-Texas) said that Republicans were already feeling "significant pressure" on taxes and "midterm elections are always tough for the party in power."

"Certainly not in the 10 states that he carried that [Senate] Democrats are running for reelection in," Cornyn said when asked if he was worried about a broad Trump backlash. "He's still enormously popular in some of those places and that's how the Senate outcome is going to be determined."