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 ThuneSenate Commerce presses Facebook, Cambridge Analytic for answers on data Overnight Tech: Facebook faces crisis over Cambridge Analytica data | Lawmakers demand answers | What to watch for next | Day one of AT&T's merger trial | Self-driving Uber car kills pedestrian White House, Democrats reject competing DACA offers MORE (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, told reporters. 

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump informally offered Cohn CIA job before changing his mind: report Schiff: I thought more Republicans would speak out against Trump Trump presses GOP to change Senate rules 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 CorkerSenate tees up Yemen vote for Tuesday Senate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed America cannot afford to be left behind on global development 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 SchumerConscience protections for health-care providers should be standard Pension committee must deliver on retirement promise Dem super PAC launches ad defending Donnelly on taxes MORE (D-N.Y.) and Democratic Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineBill to bolster gun background checks gains enough support to break filibuster Senators demand cyber deterrence strategy from Trump Two-year defense spending smooths the way to a ready military MORE (Va.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerOvernight Tech: Facebook faces crisis over Cambridge Analytica data | Lawmakers demand answers | What to watch for next | Day one of AT&T's merger trial | Self-driving Uber car kills pedestrian Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump-linked data firm Cambridge Analytica attracts scrutiny | House passes cyber response team bill | What to know about Russian cyberattacks on energy grid Cambridge Analytica: Five things to watch 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 TillisNorth Carolina GOP previously hired Cambridge Analytica: report Senate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed Dem senator: GOP should tell Trump obstructing Mueller probe is ‘unacceptable’ MORE (R-N.C.) told reporters, asked about Tuesday night’s elections.  

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsHouse leaves out ObamaCare fix from must-pass funding bill Senate considers vote to add ObamaCare fix to spending bill ObamaCare deal in danger of falling out of spending measure over abortion fight 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 GrahamSenate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed Cornyn: Hearing on McCabe firing would be 'appropriate' McCain: Mueller must be allowed to finish investigation 'unimpeded' MORE (S.C.) and Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyHere is a health care proposal that could actually work Senators target 'gag clauses' that hide potential savings on prescriptions Kimmel: Political pleas on health care have cost me commercially 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) MoranSenate Commerce presses Facebook, Cambridge Analytic for answers on data Key Republicans back VA secretary as talk of firing escalates Overnight Finance: Senate passes bill to rollback Dodd-Frank | Trump names Kudlow to replace Cohn | Former Equifax exec charged with insider trading 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 RoundsGOP senators skeptical of DACA deal in funding bill Overnight Cybersecurity: Fallout from Tillerson's ouster at State | Trump blocks Broadcom deal | Military officials push for aggressive cyber stance Top officials: U.S. must shift to more aggressive cyber approach 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 CornynTrump adds to legal team after attacks on Mueller Senate tees up Yemen vote for Tuesday Senate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed 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."