OK, look, I know that I’m not the sharpest scalpel on the surgical tray, but even I can see a pattern emerging when it’s a 20’x20’ checkerboard. In several recent articles, I have talked about the changeover in the House control putting upward pressure on McConnell, as well as Trump. I have received a myriad of well thought out comments, explaining that McConnell doesn’t care about external pressure, in fact, he has been totally resistant to it for the last two years. And fundamentally, I agree with these comments.
But my basic point is a little more nuanced than that. Up until now, Mitch McConnell has been riding his golden chariot across the sky, like some ancient Roman god. He has been able to do this for one simple reason. McConnell has been able to do this for one simple reason, because he can create and effect lasting change without having to get the approval of either of the other two branches, the White House, or the House. That is what has made him as effective as he has been, and given him his power, especially where Trump is concerned.
McConnell has had a get-out-of-jail-free card for the last two years. Ryan’s chattering monkeys in the House could pass any idiocy that they wanted, but McConnell could quash it with impunity, by laying the blame on the Democrats for filibustering said nonsense. This not only let Trump blame the Democrats for obstructionism, it also allowed McConnell to avoid forcing his GOP Senators to vote “no” on some amazingly stupid shit. Talk about the original win-win scenario.
McConnell’s whole shtick, and his Senate legacy is in packing the courts with conservative judges. And to do this, he hasn’t needed to run anything past the carnival fun house that was the GOP controlled House. Trump provided McConnell with names, and McConnell rammed them through the nomination and confirmation process. It was as simple as stamping judicial widgets. There was no real effort involved in keeping his caucus in line for this procedure.
That changes today. The House, now firmly under Nancy Pelosi’s grip, is going to pass bills to reopen the government, and to fund all shutdown effected departments except DHS through September. McConnell has promised to block this bill, “since the President won’t sign it.” First of all, establishing control of the paper flow to the president’s desk isn’t McConnell’s job, he passes bills, and Trump either signs them, or he doesn’t. But this is going to be the first of what will be many trials that will test McConnell’s hold over his caucus, in a way that it hasn’t been tested before.
The USDA is now effectively shuttered by the shutdown. Which means that farmers in red states like Kansas, Iowa, and Indiana can’t get their claims for Trump Tariff War subsidies processed or paid. The EPA has ground to a halt, which means that regulations can’t be scrapped, or grants for boondoggle R%D projects from GOP donor companies can’t be approved. The National Park Service is on a forced vacation, which means that small to medium sized business in close proximity to national parks are suffering from a lack of customers no longer visiting the abandoned parks and national monuments. Same thing for small businesses in close quarters to shuttered government offices.
All of these places, and all of these people, have Senators. And those Senators are going to have their phones ringing off of the hook, demanding action to bring this farce to a speedy resolution. There are 22 GOP Senators up for reelection in 2020, and I can pretty well guarantee that every one of them has at least some business interests that are being affected by the shutdown, with constituents that want results.The Democrats don’t have to pressure McConnell directly, simply because Trump has created a situation in which his own caucus will do it for them.
Mitt Romney has already laid a marker, and Mitch McConnell is the one who’s going to have to cash it out. I have no doubt that Romney is still seething about Trump’s previous gratuitous smear of him when Trump told an audience that “Romney came begging me for an endorsement. I could have aid, ‘Hit your knees Mitt,’and he would have dropped like a stone.” Also, Romney greatly values family, a feeling that Trump completely lacks, and he can’t be very happy about being publicly bitched out be his niece , at the behest of Glorious Bleater. And if you say, “Well, Romney is just one man,” consider this. One man, a seriously pissed off Jeff Flake, single handedly ground the McConnell judicial widget factory to a halt simply be withholding his one vote on judicial nominees.
The Democrats in the House are going to legislate. And they’re going to legislate things that they ran on. They are going to pass a bill seriously covering pre existing conditions. You might remember that issue. It’s the one that had GOP incumbents running for the hills from their 60+ votes to gut it, by claiming that they had always supported coverage for pre existing conditions? How does McConnell keep from calling that to the floor for a straight up or down vote, when his own Senators praised it in their campaigns? The same problem is going to arise from a host of other bills passed through the House, pressure from within the GOP caucus to vote on bills concerning issues that can help vulnerable Senators in 2020.
McConnell has had comparative ease in controlling his caucus simply because they have voted on little other than confirming judges, something easy to rally the troops around. But when the chips have been down on issues like repealing the ACA, McConnell has failed miserably. McConnell has been allegedly blessed by the fact that he has nowhere near as many disruptive Teabaggers in his caucus as in the rowdy House that Ryan presided over. The catch there is that the Senate is less than ¼ the size of the House, so it doesn’t take anywhere near as many brick throwers to derail the best laid plan. Ryan could afford to lose 20 renegade Teahadists, and still pass legislation, and he couldn’t even do that. If McConnell loses as few as 5 Trumpaholics in the Senate, anything he tries to do is dead.And just as in the House, there is going to be very little impetus for the Democrats to bail him out, without something juicy in it for them. And for once, the Democrats appear to be firmly united in not pulling GOP chestnuts out of the fire.
So yes, Mitch McConnell has been able to go his own way, but mainly because the only thing he has really tried to do is something that it was easy to keep hi caucus in line with. But the sands have shifted under McConnell’s feet today, and going forward, he is going to have to try to do things that will go against the best interests of members of his own caucus, something he has managed to largely avoid having to do so far. And in the US Senate, with all of its prestige and exclusivity, I get the feeling that Mitch McConnell is about to find out that self preservation is more powerful than dogma. Don’t touch that dial.
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