In the afterglow of their election success, Republicans prefer not to discuss this unpleasant possibility. They would rather rhapsodize about a sunny legislative future in which the two parties work in harmony, negating the need for all those troublesome Senate cloture votes to try to break filibusters (a tactic that they, in fact, employed very effectively to stymie President Obama).
“I think what the American people are looking for is results,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who will retain his majority leader title by virtue of surprising Republican victories, told reporters. “And to get results in the Senate, as all of you know, it requires some Democratic participation and cooperation.”
At the same time, Mr. McConnell said that repealing the Affordable Care Act was a “pretty high item on our agenda,” and he predicted quick action. “The sooner we can go in a different direction, the better,” he said.
Democrats are certain to oppose that. Even if some red-state Democrats up for re-election in 2018 join Republicans, the repeal effort will most likely remain short of the 60 votes now needed.
Republicans can use a special process known as reconciliation to avoid a filibuster. But that effort would take well into 2017 and would require passage of a congressional budget resolution, among other steps.