This Is Next Year's 'Political Wild Card'

Barack Obama John BoehnerAPJohn Boehner watching President Barack Obama speak at a White House ceremony on June 24, 2014.

In his daily “Morning Bullets” newsletter on Monday, Greg Valliere, the chief political strategist of the Potomac Research Group, noted the CRomnibus budget deal Congress reached on Saturday highlighted four things that will be the major political themes of the next year. Valliere also identified the “wild card” that could define how they all play out.

“You want a preview of 2015?” Valliere asked. “There were some clear signals in the past week: 1. The beginnings of a long-overdue reform of pension laws; 2. The rollback of regulations and curbs on agencies such as the EPA; 3. A willingness by Republicans to spend more, especially for defence and tax cuts; 4. A consensus that the annual tax extenders fiasco proves the tax code needs fixing.”

After predicting these four phenomena will “become very Big Themes in 2015-16,” Valliere said there was one key variable that will determine how they all play out — the question of whether President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R) will continue to cooperate after working together to push forward the bipartisan CRomnibus.

“The enduring memory from this budget battle is the Obama-Boehner alliance; whether it resurfaces next year on immigration or trade or taxes is the great wild card of 2015,” Valliere wrote.

Valliere also cited two other aspects of the budget battle that he said would help define the state of play in Washington over the next year. He said progressive dissatisfaction with the spending bill showed there is a “rift between Barack Obama and left” that “is wide and won’t heal.” Because of this, Valliere suggested progressive “darling” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) could be a “genuine threat to Hillary Clinton” in  the 2016 presidential election.

He also noted an effort by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to delay voting on the spending bill in order to force a vote on Obama’s immigration executive actions “rallied the party behind” more moderate GOP establishment leaders, Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who will be majority leader when the new Congress convenes next year.

Cruz’s move, which Valliere described as a “flawed stunt” was driven by his opposition to what he has called Obama’s immigration “amnesty.” However, even other conservatives felt it backfired as it allowed the outgoing Democratic Senate majority to confirm a slate of nominees for various posts. Cruz subsequently issued a statement apologizing for delaying the vote. 

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