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Let the Fun Begin

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Congress went back to work last week, but except for the actually change in the majority party in the Senate and the preoccupation of much of the nation with the implications of the terrorism events in Paris, nothing changed very much in the politically hostile mood in Washington. The inter-party bitterness continues unabated between Capitol Hill and the White House beginning with the forthcoming likely presidential veto of congressional action approving the construction of the Keystone Pipeline.  Ironically, economic events in the energy field—dramatically lower oil prices and the extensive U.S. shift to domestic natural gas–have added an unpredicted argument which could now bolster public acceptance and even support for a presidential veto; much to the chagrin of the newly empowered Republican Congress.

Similarly, the very scary events in France have forced the new Congress to re-consider its intention to cut funds for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  This move, which had been anticipated as a way for the GOP to demonstrate its commitment to greater fiscal responsibility is likely to be shelved, certainly for the time being. After watching the terrorist attacks unfolding in real time on television for several days from Europe, there is no reason to assume that Republican budget cutters would receive a favorable response from the American public were they to proceed with significant reductions in funding for the DHS.

Meanwhile, while Hillary and the Dems lay low, the Republican lineup for the Presidential contest in 2016 is growing and getting more interesting by the day. There is a roster of prospective aspirants gearing up already—Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, and Mike Huckabee among others—many of whom come from the more conservative, even Tea Party, wing of the Republican Party. Now with the announcement last month by Jeb Bush that he is setting up a presidential exploratory committee, followed by the news that Mitt Romney has the “itch” again, the Republican field is widening even more, but it is also moving into a polarizing mode. 

It remains unclear at this point if any of the centrist candidates will be able to obtain the Republican nomination in 2016 without causing a real bloodbath for the party during the primary battles. It immediately is putting the brakes on the campaign funding machinery of the non-rightwing Republicans until donors gain a clearer picture of who actually will be able to energize the Republican Party the most as it seeks to regain the White House in 2016. 

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