Not that Democrats are likely to win back control of the House of Representatives. Although some in the GOP feared citizen anger over the government shutdown that the party engineered in November might put their majority there at risk, that concern has subsided somewhat given the fallout from the botched roll-out of the exchanges in the Affordable Care Act. But if continuing improvements in the government's healthcare.gov website continue and more and more Americans discover that Republican propaganda about the ACA doesn't mesh with their personal reality, the party could find itself losing instead of gaining seats even if it ultimately keeps its hands on the House tiller.
The situation is leading some Republicans to take the view that a modest, blunder-avoiding agenda is the smart move. Paul Kane writes at the Washington Post:
“Look, we don’t want to be the obstructionists,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who in October refused to vote to keep the government open if it funded the health-care law, said Wednesday in an interview.And Speaker John Boehner is expressing caution, too.
Massie is one of many aggressive conservatives lowering expectations for next year, embracing the realization that their effort to shut down the government as an attack on the ACA was a strategic failure. He is now ready to pass a funding resolution for the rest of 2014 with those health-care funds in it to avoid another political pitfall.
“I’m ready to go with existing law on budget, so that shows you where my expectations are, and I think it’s the best way to avoid a shutdown,” Massie said.
Given how fractious the party is, it's no surprise that such views don't sit well with everyone. The depth of the split is illustrated by the fact that Rep. Eric Cantor's "Kids First" cancer research proposal and another proposal to ensure people with pre-existing health conditions could get insurance ran smack dab into opposition in his own party who seemed, amazingly, to view this as Obamacare-Lite. Cantor hopes to get an affirmative vote on the cancer research next week before the holiday recess.
But if that can't be passed, building support for a full-on alternative to the ACA seems out of the question. Same story with much other possible legislation. Not putting forth an aggressive agenda may not be a strategic, election-oriented option in 2014. It may simply be a case of Republicans not being able to agree on anything more than a few scattered bits of legislation. That could make the outcome in November a toss-up.