Dem wins leave behind a more conservative GOP conference

Tuesday’s blue wave in the House is set to leave behind a GOP conference that is far more conservative — and more loyal to President TrumpDonald John TrumpProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times George Conway: Why take Trump's word over prosecutors' if he 'lies about virtually everything' Federal judge says lawsuit over Trump travel ban waivers will proceed MORE.

A large chunk of centrist Republicans were either wiped out at the polls on Tuesday or are planning to retire at the end of this Congress, while the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus is actually expected to expand its ranks next year.

That means that when Republicans assume their new role in the minority, the GOP will largely be unified as they rally against the Democratic agenda and defend Trump from an onslaught of investigations and hearings.

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“We’re gonna have a lot of House members Grahamified,” said an aide to a conservative lawmaker, referring to Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate votes to end US support for Saudi war, bucking Trump Former FBI official says Mueller won’t be ‘colored by politics’ in Russia probe GOP-controlled Senate breaks with Trump on Saudi vote MORE (R-S.C.). “He was decidedly anti-Trump, but then Democrats crossed the threshold of what was responsible and reasonable.”

Now, Graham is one of Trump’s top allies on Capitol Hill.

“You’re going to see the Graham effect,” the aide predicted.

House Democrats seized back control of the House on Tuesday by flipping a large number of seats held by moderate Republicans, including Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanGardner gets first Dem challenger for 2020 Senate race The 5 most competitive Senate races of 2020 10 things we learned from the midterms MORE of Colorado, Leonard LanceLeonard LanceIncoming Dem lawmaker: Trump 'sympathizes' with leaders 'accused of moral transgressions' On The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report Tax law failed to save GOP majority MORE of New Jersey and Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloThe Hill's Morning Report — Will Trump strike a deal with Chuck and Nancy? GOP lawmakers call for autopsy on 'historic losses' Bipartisan group of lawmakers propose landmark carbon tax MORE of Florida.

And the GOP’s most prominent and outspoken centrist voices — including Reps. Ryan CostelloRyan Anthony Costelllo‘Wake up, dudes’ — gender gap confounds GOP women GOP lawmakers say party isn't trying to learn from midterm losses Pennsylvania New Members 2019 MORE (Pa.) and Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-Lehtinen‘Wake up, dudes’ — gender gap confounds GOP women Florida New Members 2019 House GOP returns to Washington after sobering midterm losses MORE (Fla.) and former Rep. Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentPennsylvania New Members 2019 Dem wins leave behind a more conservative GOP conference How Republicans who voted against ObamaCare repeal fared in midterms MORE (Pa.) — decided to head for the exits instead of face tough reelection battles in their swing districts.

“The Republican herd has been culled. And the culling was the more moderate members,” said the GOP aide. “The center of gravity in the conference has moved to the right.”

Meanwhile, a new crop of conservatives won election, including Chip Roy, whom Politico once described as the “next Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO’Rourke rockets to second place on CNN analysts' 2020 Dem rankings, Harris remains first Senators prepare for possibility of Christmas in Washington during a shutdown Biden to discuss 2020 bid with family over holidays: report MORE” (R-Texas); Denver Riggleman, a Trump-endorsed businessman in Virginia; Mark Green, who ran on a small government platform in Tennessee; and Ron Wright, who will replace retiring Freedom Caucus member Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonPrivacy legislation could provide common ground for the newly divided Congress Texas New Members 2019 Dem wins leave behind a more conservative GOP conference MORE (R-Texas).

The Freedom Caucus, a band of roughly 30 hard-liners, lost two of its members Tuesday, but is still expecting to net upwards of five members in the new Congress.

And with a slimmer caucus, that means the group — which has torpedoed GOP-backed bills to get what they want — will make up a larger percentage of the overall conference.

But, as a source close to the caucus pointed out, all Republicans will end up using similar obstructionist tactics once they are no longer in power.

“Everybody acts like the Freedom Caucus when you’re in the minority,” the source said.

Several Capitol Hill sources predicted that the GOP conference, where infighting between competing factions has spilled into public view for years, would band together against the Democrats’ priorities. And some of the ideas supported by the left will give Republicans plenty to dislike, from Medicare for All to a $15 minimum wage.

The biggest points of contention among House Republicans have stemmed from when they have actually tried to put pen to paper on certain issues, such as repealing and replacing ObamaCare — something the GOP campaigned on for years. The health-care debate illustrated that it’s far easier to be against an idea than come up with actual policy solutions that everyone can agree on. 

“Republicans were more united when they were on defense then when they were on offense,” said Rep. Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonFractious GOP vows to unify in House minority Three Republicans battle to succeed Meadows at House Freedom Caucus House Republicans set to elect similar team of leaders despite midterm thumping MORE (R-Ohio), a member of the Freedom Caucus, referring to the last time the GOP was in the minority. “That’s just the challenge of offense. I’m sure Democrats will deal with that.”

Since winning back the House, Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiOvernight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force On The Money: GOP senator floats options to prevent shutdown | Republicans stunned by Trump shutdown threat | Schumer insists Dems won't budge on wall | Pelosi expects fierce fight over Trump tax returns | Trump warns GM won't be treated well after layoff Will Congress score headlines or legislative wins in next session? MORE (D-Calif.) outlined several areas of common ground where she hopes to work with Trump and Republicans next year, including an infrastructure package and lowering prescription drug prices.

But a more conservative GOP caucus may be more inclined to throw bombs than cut deals, not making life any easier for the Democrats who hope to notch some bipartisan legislative wins ahead of 2020.

Davidson, however, noted that some Republicans may be willing to work across the aisle on certain issues, especially if Trump is leading the push.

“There may be coalitions where some Republicans will work with Democrats,” Davidson said. “But it’s issue by issue.”

Democrats are itching to use their new subpoena powers to investigate the Trump administration, including scrutinizing the recent ouster of Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsChief Justice of California Supreme Court leaves GOP over Kavanaugh confirmation Trump attorney general pick a prolific donor to GOP candidates, groups: report Press: Mueller closes in on Trump MORE and getting their hands on Trump’s tax returns and bank records.

“That will unite a lot of people in opposition to their actions, if that’s the play call,” Davidson said.

Democrats will also be under immense pressure from the liberal base to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump, though party leaders have kept the idea at arm’s length.

Still, if Democrats are seen as overstepping their bounds with their newfound subpoena powers, some Capitol Hill sources predicted that Republicans — even those who have not publicly embraced the president very tightly — may unite in their defense of Trump.

“Democrats are going to jump the shark. Everyone knows that they’re gonna go overboard,” the aide to the conservative lawmaker said. If so, the aide said it may surprise the public to see which lawmakers come out to back the president.

And with the loss of so many outspoken moderates, there will be less voices in the party willing to challenge the president.

Trump, who has repeatedly attacked lawmakers who challenge him, seemed to relish in the fact that some of his Republican critics lost their reelection bids.

“You had some that decided to, let’s stay away, let’s stay away. They did very poorly,” Trump said at a press conference at the White House. “I’m not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it.”