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 ThuneThrough a national commitment to youth sports, we can break the obesity cycle Florida politics play into disaster relief debate GOP chairman: FEMA has enough money for Hurricane Michael MORE (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, told reporters. 

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainComey donates maximum amount to Democratic challenger in Virginia House race Live coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate Is there difference between good and bad online election targeting? 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 CorkerSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Dem Senator: Congress will act on death of Saudi journalist Democrats torch Trump for floating 'rogue killers' to blame for missing journalist 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 SchumerMcConnell says deficits 'not a Republican problem' Medicare for All is disastrous for American seniors and taxpayers Senate Dems race to save Menendez in deep-blue New Jersey MORE (D-N.Y.) and Democratic Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Trump says 'rogue killers' could be behind missing journalist | Sends Pompeo to meet Saudi king | Saudis may claim Khashoggi killed by accident | Ex-VA chief talks White House 'chaos' | Most F-35s cleared for flight Democrats torch Trump for floating 'rogue killers' to blame for missing journalist Election Countdown: O'Rourke brings in massive M haul | Deal on judges lets senators return to the trail | Hurricane puts Florida candidates in the spotlight | Adelson spending big to save GOP in midterms MORE (Va.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDems can use subpoena power to reclaim the mantle of populism Is there difference between good and bad online election targeting? Collusion judgment looms for key Senate panel 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 TillisDems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October Kavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight GOP fractured over filling Supreme Court vacancies in 2020 MORE (R-N.C.) told reporters, asked about Tuesday night’s elections.  

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGraham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh St. Lawrence alumni, faculty want honorary degree for Collins revoked 'Suspicious letter' mailed to Maine home of Susan Collins 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 GrahamSaudi mystery drives wedge between Trump, GOP Suspects in journalist's disappearance linked to Saudi crown prince: report Overnight Defense: Trump worries Saudi Arabia treated as 'guilty until proven innocent' | McConnell opens door to sanctions | Joint Chiefs chair to meet Saudi counterpart | Mattis says Trump backs him '100 percent' MORE (S.C.) and Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyTrump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Dem ad accuses Heller of 'lying' about record on pre-existing conditions GOP senator suggests criminal referral for third Kavanaugh accuser's 'apparently false affidavit' 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 Republicans demand Google hand over memo advising it to hide data vulnerability Overnight Defense — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Missing journalist strains US-Saudi ties | Senators push Trump to open investigation | Trump speaks with Saudi officials | New questions over support for Saudi coalition in Yemen Senators demand answers on Trump administration backing of Saudi coalition in Yemen 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 RoundsOn The Money: Deficit hits six-year high of 9 billion | Yellen says Trump attacks threaten Fed | Affordable housing set for spotlight in 2020 race Lawmakers, Wall Street shrug off Trump's escalating Fed attacks GOP shrugs off dire study warning of global warming 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 CornynFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees 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."