By Walter Brasch
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate minority leader, is not a happy man.
He didn’t like it when Barack Obama was elected president. Just about the first thing McConnell said was that his main responsibility was to make sure Mr. Obama was a one-term president.
That vow drove McConnell’s and the Tea Party’s politics. They didn’t worry about the nation or the people. They worried about how to make Barack Obama a one-term president.
But, in the past six years, McConnell managed to block almost all constructive legislation in the Senate. And it’s not even a fair fight. McConnell manipulated and wheeled and dealed so that the majority no longer can do anything. It now takes 60 votes to pass almost anything in the Senate. That’s because the Republican obstructionists have threatened to filibuster anything of substance. Important bipartisan legislation that would normally pass with a majority of 51 to 59 votes out of the 100 possible are now scuttled by backroom politics and the blind hatreds that some have for this nation’s president who was elected by the people and by the Electoral College—twice.
And now comes Mitch McConnell to again obstruct the people and the government. He vows if the Republicans win the Senate in November, he will shut down the government if President Obama doesn’t agree with the Republicans.
McConnell told the alternative media site, Politico, if he becomes majority leader, he plans to attach riders or block legislation from coming to the floor on critical legislation that protects the environment—unlike almost every scientist, he denies the existence of climate change and opposes broader regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency. He says he will bring riders or block legislation on health care improvements if any are proposed by the President. He will add riders or block legislation to bills improving the nation’s infrastructure, housing, unemployment. Name a bill, and if McConnell and his Tea Party faithful don’t support it, they will, if they are in the majority, continue to obstruct moving the nation forward. If they are in the minority, they will continue to threaten to filibuster any bill they don’t like, disregarding the will of the majority.
Either the President goes along with McConnell or he’ll shut down government. Take the game ball and leave. Kick some dirt on the way out. Maybe curse the Democrats.
Remember last October? The House Republicans didn’t get their way, so they shut down government. Closed the national parks and forests. Stopped assistance to families on military bases. The action blocked imports of steel and lumber, and slowed construction. It caused layoffs of more than two million federal workers, including those who provide needed social services to everyone from infants to the elderly. Not laid off were members of Congress who continued to draw their salaries and benefits.
The two week shutdown cost American taxpayers more than $20 billion. Apparently, those who screeched the loudest about reducing the deficit—President Obama’s policies, not those of the Tea Party, led to a reduction of the deficit from $1.5 trillion to about $500 billion—had no problem charging that $20 billion expense because it was done to make a political statement.
On their report cards, the American people gave the Tea Party wing that caused the shutdown a terse statement—“does not play well with others,” and gave Congress an overall 15 percent approval rating, lower than any previous Congress. With only slightly more than 100 bills passed into law, this is the least productive Congress in history. The House Republicans have blocked meaningful legislation. The Senate Republicans have consistently blocked the majority will.
During the summer, Congress, by its own inaction, essentially told President Obama to deal with ISIS, that he has the authority to send American forces against the terrorist threat. It was a marked contrast to previous claims that Congress needed to have a say if the President used military forces anywhere. But this is an election year, and members of Congress didn’t want to lose any votes. They put their fingers in the wind, saw that anything they did could have consequences, and punted to the President. The President, within his Constitutional authority, launched air strikes against ISIS.
This week, McConnell demanded that President Obama develop a plan to deal with ISIS—of course, he and much of Congress didn’t have any plans, and almost anything the President proposed would be met with whiny objections. One of those objections came from McConnell who declared the President had to get Congressional approval to go to war against ISIS.
President Obama, after meeting with his advisors and Congressional leaders, developed a four-point strategy. McConnell, in a close race for re-election, now realized his Kentucky constituents, by a large majority, support aggressive actions against ISIS and the President’s strategy. His response was now to say he would support the President.
The President has requested Congress to come back into session to discuss the strategy and, if necessary, vote for increased military action. This would be a major discomfort to Congress; it was scheduled to be in session only 12 days between Aug. 1 and the Nov. 4 election.
With the election of Barack Obama, the reactionary right wing of the Republican party has driven the clown car, and made a mockery of everything this nation was, is, and should be. They may not be the terrorists that the President was referring to when he told the nation, Sept. 10, “If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” But in their own way, the obstructions, by threatening to shut down government, threaten America.
One of the best ways to stop the nation from descending into further stagnation would be for the people of Kentucky in November to deny Mitch McConnell a sixth term as senator and the possibility he will become majority leader.
[Dr. Brasch, an award-winning journalist, has covered social issues and politics, from city halls to the White House and Capitol, for more than four decades. His current book is Fracking Pennsylvania, a broad look at the economics, politics, and environmental and health impacts of fracking throughout the country.]