The president’s partial normalization of relations with Cuba spurred widespread Republican fury (with the conspicuous exception of Sen. Rand Paul). You have to begin wondering if the multiple layers of conservative outrage over the president’s various executive actions could overwhelm the best-laid plans of GOP congressional leaders to make their takeover of Congress appear a calm ascension of governing-minded grownups. Add it up: the president’s environmental executive orders; his climate change agreement with China; his immigration action; and now Cuba–all on top of such “scandals” as Benghazi! and the IRS disrespecting of conservative non-profits that have never achieved any sort of resolution. Conservatives will demand that “their” new Congress conspicuously address each and every one of these examples of “overreach” and “tyranny,” in a spectacle that will affect perceptions of the GOP going forward even if high-stakes collisions over government funding are somehow avoided.
If that’s not enough, there’s the burning question of what Republicans will do if the Supreme Court at the end of current term invalidates health insurance premium subsidies for millions of people in 36 states. This week conservative health wonks Yuval Levin and James Capretta proposed that congressional Republicans pass legislation just before or immediately after a decision creating an Obamacare replacement system. But the instinct of many conservatives if SCOTUS strikes a blow at Obamacare will be simply to celebrate. And so it is not at all clear that the famous “taming” of the Tea Party branch of the GOP by Republican elites, even if it’s credited as a real phenomenon, will survive the pressures–or to put it another way the presidential provocations–of 2015.