McConnell Faces Pressure From Within And Without Over Shutdown
As the shutdown drags on, Mitch McConnell finds himself facing pressure from the White House and from members of his own caucus.
As the government shutdown continues with no end in sight, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is starting to feel pressure from members of his own caucus, especially those who will be up for re-election in 2020:
WASHINGTON — For weeks, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has remained conspicuously on the sidelines, insisting that it was up to President Trump and Democrats to negotiate an end to the partial shutdown of the federal government.
But with the shutdown soon to enter its third week, and Mr. Trump dug in on his demand for $5 billion to build a border wall, Mr. McConnell for the first time is facing pressure from members of his own party to step in to resolve the stalemate that has left 800,000 federal workers either furloughed or working without pay.
By absenting himself, Mr. McConnell had hoped to push the blame for a prolonged shutdown onto Democrats while protecting Republicans running for re-election in 2020 — including himself. Much as Democrats did in 2018, Republicans will face a difficult map in 2020, with a handful of incumbent senators facing re-election in swing states or states won by Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race.
But on Thursday, as a new era of divided government opened in Washington, perhaps the most vulnerable Republican, Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, broke ranks to become the first member of his party to call for an end to the shutdown — with or without Mr. Trump’s wall funding.
“I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open,” Mr. Gardner, whose state has a heavy federal presence, told The Hill newspaper. “The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today.”
A second vulnerable Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, one of the chamber’s most moderate members, said Thursday that she would support separating homeland security funding from the other bipartisan appropriations bills already approved in committee to reopen much of the government — as Democrats have proposed. But Mr. McConnell is refusing to take up the Democrats’ measures.
“It would be great to have them signed into law because there is not great controversy over them, and at least we’d be getting those workers back to work,” Ms. Collins said.
Mr. McConnell’s distant posture reflects his new status as the man in the middle in a Capitol where Democrats now control the House of Representatives and Republicans have netted two seats to hold a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate. He has repeatedly said he will not bring up legislation that Mr. Trump does not support — a point he reiterated in a speech on Thursday on the Senate floor.
“I’ve made it clear on several occasions, and let me say it again: The Senate will not take up any proposal that does not have a real chance of passing this chamber and getting a presidential signature,” Mr. McConnell said. “Let’s not waste the time. Let’s not get off on the wrong foot, with House Democrats using their new platform to produce political statements rather than serious solutions.”
After two years of trying to advance Mr. Trump’s agenda, Mr. McConnell now sees his primary job as standing in the way of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who vowed in her inaugural speech on Thursday to “reach across the aisle in this chamber,” but who is also poised to pass legislation on a bevy of liberal priorities, including gun restrictions and protections for young undocumented immigrants.
“I think McConnell is going to be Trump’s best friend when it comes to blocking all of Nancy Pelosi’s worst shots,” said Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist who is close to Mr. McConnell. “For Trump and McConnell, there’s a lot of good politics for that — particularly for McConnell in Kentucky.”
Democrats are trying to drive a wedge between Republican leaders and their vulnerable incumbents up for re-election in 2020, especially Mr. Gardner, Ms. Collins, Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Senator Martha McSally of Arizona, who was appointed to fill the seat left vacant after Senator John McCain’s death. The campaign arm of the Senate Democrats released a series of statements to local news media on Thursday targeting each senator and demanding they make a choice to fund the government or “own” the consequences.
“Cory Gardner owns every miserable consequence of his pointless government shutdown, and he just realized it’s a problem for his own political career,” read one from David Bergstein, a campaign committee spokesman. “When he votes 99 percent of the time with President Trump and then tries to run away from his record, all it proves is Coloradans can’t trust him to look out for anyone but himself.”
And Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, called on Mr. McConnell to jump into the talks with Mr. Trump.
“The power to end the shutdown is in two people’s hands: Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell,” Mr. Schumer said Thursday in a brief hallway interview. “Either one of them could end the shutdown. They both should try.”
It seems fairly clear that McConnell’s biggest fear isn’t being seen as crossing Trump, although that is certainly a likely concern, but also the prospect that if he did bring something akin to the bills that passed the House last night to the Senate support, they would get at least some significant amount of Republican support and could even garner enough support to reach the sixty vote limit needed to invoke cloture. In part, this is due to the fact that the 2020 Senate elections will be nearly a mirror image of the 2018 elections in that there will be 22 Republican seats up for re-election while the Democrats will only have to defend 12 seats. Additionally, of those 22 Republican several will be in states where Democrats won or where they could potentially be competitive, including Arizona, Maine, and North Carolina. Democrats, on the other hand, will only have one seat, the seat currently held by Doug Jones in Alabama, in a state that is likely to go Republican in the General Election. This is why Senators such as Cory Gardner, who narrowly defeated incumbent Senator Mark Udall in a state that Hillary Clinton won by more than 100,000 votes in 2016 are already expressing concern about a shutdown that could hurt them politically in two years. The longer this shutdown lasts, the more pressure these Senators up for re-election in 2020 are likely to feel, and the more pressure McConnell is likely to feel from within his own camp.
Pulling McConnell in the other direction, of course, is the President and those members of the GOP caucus who are loyal to the President in this fight. Crossing the President at this point in the shutdown fight, even by simply allowing the bills that passed the House last night to get to the Senate floor, would be seen as capitulation by this group and would set up the possibility of a real schism inside the Republican Senate caucus. So far, McConnell seems to be engaging in the strategy of staying behind the scenes, letting the chief negotiating take place between Democrats and the President since they are the ones at loggerheads. At least in the short-term, this strategy probably makes sense politically and otherwise. McConnell does have a point, after all, in arguing that the Senate is wasting its time in taking up House bills that the President has already said he would veto. As this shutdown goes on longer, though, the pressures on McConnell from both sides are likely to grow and he won’t be able to sit on the sidelines like he is now.
The bills Pelosi passed to reopen the government had essentially the same content as what passed the Senate unanimously. The ball is in Mitch’s corner now, the proper thing for him to do is bring it to a vote. Article 1 doesn’t say anything about the Senate being subservient to a deranged president scared of dipshits on Fox news.
In their majority Senate position the Republican Party will not permit a simple up or down floor vote on anything that does not result in Mitch McConnell’s preferred result.
Tough Titty for Mitch, it’s on him til he passes it.
I find the juxtaposition of this comment with another recent Mataconis post illuminating. The first essentially says that the House Democrats are performing a useless exercise by passing bills that fund the government because Mitchy McC won’t take them up because Hair Fuhrer won’t sign those bills. Then this one says Mitchy is under pressure to do something to end the shutdown by his own caucus. Democrats are doing what they can: put pressure on the Republicans to stop causing problems and act as an independent branch of government. I also loved the juxtaposition of CSPAN-2 with CSPAN-1: Mitchy speaking to no one in an empty Senate chamber and the joyous scene in the House with Democrats with their families, including some infants, electing Pelosi as their Majority Leader.
I find this bit most revealing:
Given a choice to govern or obstruct, McConnell, as leader of the GOP in the Senate, elects obstruction.
If that’s the preferred course of action, a speed bump could be the majority leader.
@Ben Wolf: Look there! A squirrel!
(Is this what you regularly do when you have to defend your work? Point your finger and blame someone else?)
@dmichael: And the juxtaposition of the Dem side with colorful dresses and diversity and happy children with The R side, all old white guys lined up in dark suits with red Trump ties and dour expressions. But don’t expect that joyful scene in the House to dampen for one second the ‘Dems in Disarray’ stories from the supposedly liberal MSM.
While I can’t speak for Ben, I believe based on his previous comments that he’s aligned with AOC on a lot of issues. It would be helpful if he were to actually post a comment along with the article so we could understand wtf his point was.
Now in light of the hostile and snide right wing reactions to yesterday’s imagery, this new essay is really interesting: Peter Beinart argues that the recent right-wing authoritarianism isn’t motivated by either economic insecurity, or racism, but rather misogyny and an angry reaction to women gaining power.
Thinking about the hostility towards Hillary, that’s now being transferred to Warren, shitty insults to Pelosi, the rejection of anything Christine Blasey Ford had to say, Kevin McCarthy demanding that one congresswoman be censured for cursing, the idiots who thought they’d smear AOC by showing her dancing in college and calling her a nitwit…
Fuck, looks like he’s got a strong case.
So is McConnell bummed out in that photo, or does he just have resting turtle face?
What does that mean? As a homeowner it sounds expensive.
I also have to laugh at that link. 82% have heard nothing at all about it, but 40% strongly support it based on the name is a pretty good representation of the current state of US politics.
@Ben Wolf: I love how slanted modern news is nowadays. A top marginal rate at 60% is treated as something would be unprecedented and “radical”, despite the rate being almost 70% as recently as 1981.
The Greatest Generation paid tax rates as high as 92% so they children wouldn’t be saddled with the debt from winning World War II, but Baby Boomers have no problem with screwing over their children and grandchildren as long as they get theirs.
Won’t speak for Ben, either, but maybe its better to be vague than it is to invite insult from the usual crew of self-described “insult kings.”
While the insults have become gratuitous, you have a good year’s worth of comments belittling just about everyone on here, attributing to them things they’ve never said so you could punch apart straw men, refusing to back up your arguments, refusing to even consider data contrary to your view simply because said data comes from a journalist (while maintaining that those who don’t consider others’ views are bad, bad, bad), exhibiting little to no understanding of how the political process works (“why hasn’t *Schumer* passed such and such bill?”), grabbing the mantle of somehow understanding the common man because you host imaginary conversations while riding the light rail, and wild goal post moving (my favorite was when Prof. Taylor took apart every argument you made, until you were reduced to arguing that Native Americans were politically disempowered because they refused to do the sensible thing of coordinating mass relocation on the basis of partisan voting).
So perhaps you don’t have much room to complain about your treatment here.
A paragraph that consists entirely of buzzwords with no concrete proposals as to what implementing them would mean. To use your “increase efficiency” example, how will efficiency be increased? Does it only apply to new construction? Or as indicated by “upgrade”, are all existing buildings going to have to comply too? Who’s going to pay for all those upgrades?
Trump just called Kevin McCarthy Steve on live TV. Schumer says in the meeting they just had Trump threatened to keep the government shut down for years.
Mitch better get his shit together and act like an American.
Dallas Morning News had something to say about people with ties to Russia supporting American pols:
. https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/12/15/putins-proxies-helped-funnel-millions-gop-campaigns .
Lots more at the link, I just quoted a taste. and this:
Editor’s note: Ruth May wrote this column in August 2017. Click here for an extensive update. (I believe that’s the link above.
. https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/12/15/putins-proxies-helped-funnel-millions-gop-campaigns .
. https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/08/03/tangled-web-connects-russian-oligarch-money-gop-campaigns .
I have no idea how much, if any, the Russians influence McConnell, but I do not see him doing much Putin would be unhappy with.
@Ben Wolf: I think it was Atrios who put it succinctly, ‘If one side says it’s dry and the other side says it’s raining, your job as a journalist isn’t to quote both sides but to look out the damn window.’ Or, as I sometimes put it in bitches to NYT, I’m not asking you to be partisan, I’m asking you to defend objective reality.
The real test is this: does Kevin now respond to being called Steve?
That’s honestly a pretty big gaff, what was the setting? (I’ve been working and don’t know the context of this…not that it matters entirely, really Trump should know at very least the Republican leadership…)
@charon: Public information makes McConnell’s refusal to inform the public of Russian meddling makes him clearly an accessory after the fact. (In a vernacular sense, IANAL.) Worse is entirely possible.
Someone remind me: how is it you can attract the best people, by giving them nothing to do and paying them no money?
@Jen: it was in a press conference in the Rose garden an hour or so ago. It would take me forever to dig through Twitter to find the video again.
“Let’s not waste the time. Let’s not get off on the wrong foot, with House Democrats using their new platform to produce political statements rather than serious solutions when I can be using my established platform to produce political statements rather than serious solutions–the proper way to use a platform!”
Fixed that for you, Mitch.
@Neil Hudelson: I’ve been thinking this recently myself. In some ways he’s becoming sort of a Bizarro World Tyrell–but with no folksy homilies to blunt the incoherence.
The stuff about the Arapahoe and Cheyenne was why they haven’t returned to Colorado, their ancestral homeland, not why they haven’t relocated for partisan reasons.
I did argue that Dems should move to red states, but I did so knowing that Dems absolutely hate the people living in red states and wouldn’t even consider it, once again demonstrating a point I’ve been trying to make for a while: the progressive left’s own prejudices are holding them back, not the prejudices of the so-called “deplorables.”
But now I realize such subtle arguments are a little too advanced, a little too nuanced, for certain audiences.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
Less bad faith might make me more “coherent.” I have to anticipate all the point-missing and the high-horsing, so yeah, I can be a little vague and a little unclear.
If I say something like “Nancy Pelosi shouldn’t have been celebrating her return to the Speakership while the government is closed over some partisan brinksmanship,” I’ll get “What about powerful women turns you into a caveman?”
If I say something like “I don’t think it’s too much to ask of black voters to get IDs so they can vote,” I’ll get “Of course you think that, privileged white man. How come you want to suppress the votes of black people?”
At this point in my life, I’m content for certain folks to believe whatever erroneous thing they want to about me, my personal life, my motivations, etc. I can’t help it if some people are stupid.
@James Pearce: You know, if we’re such a bunch of conceited assholes, you could just not post here.
When President Dementia said he was prepared to keep the government shut down for months or even years, after I laughed, I wondered, just how many employees, and what departments are we talkin about, so I looked it up and here’s an excerpt from a CBS story:
if the shutdown even lasted for more than say 2 months, most of those people would be out the door. Can you imagine what a clusterfuck that would be on a national level???
You know, most sane and intelligent individuals sooner or later figure out that if everybody they hang out with (and like it or not, you DO hang out with us) think they are batshit crazy for believing the crazy shit that they do, they begin to wonder, maybe, just maybe, they are wrong?
But not you. No, you look at the exact same set of facts and reach an entirely different set of conclusions. Even after all your prognostications have been proven wrong, you continue to insist you are right, that all the facts are wrong.
You know, you are just like the homeless vets holding a “I’ll work for food” sign at the top of the off ramp of my small town, except for one small thing:
Unlike you, they have a clue.
@Teve: We’ve already got more and more TSA employees calling in sick, throwing air travel into disarray.
The only way we’re going to solve this sort of political-Kabuki-which-craps-on-ordinary-people is if the hardships start hitting the Congresscritters and the President. Take away all the janitors and cleaners who service the White House and the Capital. Take away all Secret Service people from Trump and tell Trump that he doesn’t get to fly in Air Force One. Stop all salaries being paid and put them in escrow.
Maybe if enough of that is done, the Senators will finally grow a pair enough to stand up to El Orange Cheeto and tell him: “No, you are not a king. You do not get automatically whatever you want. Compromise on this and let us put a budget through and open the government again, otherwise we’re going to override your veto and make you look like the lame duck you are.”
@grumpy realist: when you start fucking up the commerce Dept, you start messing with rich people’s money. And rich people start calling McConnell and his boys and asking what the fuck their problem is. And in the end, rich people matter a hell of a lot more to Republicans than Trump Chumps.
@Teve: Just wait until the Silicon Valley types discover when a whole bunch of patent priority chains have problems because of the USPTO being shut down! Or trademark applications get delayed, etc. etc. and so forth. (IIRC the USPTO gave everyone the filing date of the first day of the shutdown last time, but there’s nothing in the regs that says they have to do it.)
Also, since a lot of the internal mindless work of the patent application processing stuff has been farmed out to outside contractors, there’s the fact that these outside contractors are not getting work or paid. They can only survive on their own without work or payment for a finite amount of time. By the time the politicians have finished horsing around some very essential parts of the links of government regulation may have vanished, leaving a totally broken mess behind.
This is about as stupid as Brexit. The only advantage is that we haven’t totally broken our system yet, while the Brits look to be lurching towards the cliff in an “accidental departure” at an ever-increasing speed.
@grumpy realist: reporters are saying that the Trump administration is scrambling now, and that they bumbled into the situation because they literally didn’t understand that the government did important things. I believe that. Trump and his nitwit deputies are that stupid. D’Souza was even tweeting idiotic shit like “Why do we even have non-essential employees?” derp derp derp.
so while the shutdown is going on, and hundreds of thousands of people are having to work without pay, and hundreds of thousands of others aren’t getting any pay, and Trump just signed a pay freeze taking away the 1.9% raise federal workers were supposed to get this year, which wouldn’t even keep up with inflation, Mike Pence and a few other cabinet members are getting raises of up to $10,000 a year right now.
the people who think government should be run like a business should be happy right now.
@Kathy: “Someone remind me: how is it you can attract the best people, by giving them nothing to do and paying them no money?”
Well, their definition of the ‘best people’ is the ‘people who understand that their real paycheck comes under the table’.
Trump’s now trying to call the shutdown a strike? WTF?
One of the greatest tweets in history:
“McConnell does have a point, after all, in arguing that the Senate is wasting its time in taking up House bills that the President has already said he would veto.”
Nonsense. Republicans voted 70+ times to kill Obamacare.
@iSeeDumbPeople: yep. One of the reasons I can’t stand McConnell being on the airwaves is that everything he says is a dumb lie.
@James Pearce: Sorry you misunderstood, but my comment (as is true of Neil’s) was about Ben Wolf, not you. Perhaps you should pay more attention to what you are reading before going of on a half-cocked contrarianism. I realize you are simply objecting to whatever anyone says, but try to keep up.
No wonder people think you’re just an asshole.
ETA: I promise I will not feed the troll again this thread. In the case of this particular troll, I will try to starve him completely again. I’ve given him far too much attention despite the degree to which he leads with his chin. Please assist in whatever ways you can.
ETAA: “Up to 5,000 Forest Service firefighters” Good thing fire season is over for now.
Perhaps one of the problems with the American idea that each new generation should do better than the previous generation is that you eventually get a group of people who are so spoiled that they care only about themselves and not their children and grandchildren…
That ship sailed when he threatened to turn the warnings of Russian interference in the 2016 election into a partisan issue if any of it became public…