Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 21, 2010

QUOTE OF THE DAY.... By some measures, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is an exceptional Senate Minority Leader. This may seem counterintuitive given his personal and professional characteristics: he's not honest; he doesn't negotiate in good faith; he has no real respect for institutional norms; he's proven himself willing to put his party's interests above the nation's interests; and he's never demonstrated any working knowledge of any area of public policy.

But if it's the job of the Senate Minority Leader to offer knee-jerk obstructionism, mindlessly oppose the majority's agenda, stymie the chamber's ability to function as a legitimate legislative body, and basically be an all-around pain in the arse, Mitch McConnell is very good at what he does.

And as far as he's concerned, McConnell intends to make things even worse.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has a warning for Democrats seething over his shrewd political tactics: Get used to it.

"There's much for them to be angst-ridden about," McConnell said with a chuckle. "If they think it's bad now, wait 'til next year."

Right. McConnell's caucus will expand from 42 members to 47 members in a few weeks, and at that point, he'll basically consider himself the Senate Majority Leader -- he'll block anything that doesn't meet with his full approval. For the last two years, McConnell's principal goal has been to keep his handful of moderates from cooperating with the White House and the congressional majority. Next year, that won't be a problem.

Indeed, we can add this to the list of McConnell's frequent moments of candor. He conceded in August, for example, that as far as he's concerned, literally every idea considered by the Senate in the next Congress "is going to have to be center-right," even after voters elected a Democratic majority in the chamber.

What's more, in March, McConnell acknowledged the entire basis for his health care strategy, explaining that he demanded unanimous GOP opposition, even to ideas Republicans liked, as a way of making reform unpopular. The strategy had nothing to do with policy or actually helping people, and everything to do with denying Democrats a victory.

Perhaps most famously, McConnell admitted his partisan intentions shortly before the midterm elections:"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.... Our single biggest political goal is to give [the Republican] nominee for president the maximum opportunity to be successful."

Now, McConnell is at it again. He's already taken Senate obstructionism to levels unseen in American history, and now he has a new promise for Democrats: "If they think it's bad now, wait 'til next year."

I can only hope White House officials are taking note of comments like these -- if the West Wing thinks it can work constructively with McConnell and his cohorts on a range of issues, this would be an excellent time to reevaluate those expectations.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (32)

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Forget about the White House paying attention, I hope every member of the Democratic Senate Caucus is paying attention. And that they remember this when Merkley, et. al. come forward with filibuster reform proposals at the beginning of the next Congress.

Posted by: tanstaafl on December 21, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

I think this pretty much lays out in vivid detail why it is imperative that the Senate adopt new rules when they come into session in January.

Yes, one day the Democrats will be in minority again however the thought that McConnell and friends will basically shut down the legislative branch for two more years is ample justification to make the Senate a majority rule body.

Because someone needs to get in Mitch's face and say, "Go fuck yourself."

Posted by: RosiesDad on December 21, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Well, McConnell's cards are on the table. Now, will Harry go All In?
In the Wonderful World of Mathematics 53 beats 47. In the U.S. Senate, maybe, maybe not. Stay tuned for 2011. . .

Posted by: DAY on December 21, 2010 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats should reform the filibuster rule so that it can no longer be abused. If they don't then they might as well pack up and go home because McConnell has already taken control of the Senate. I don't think they should do away with it, but they should make it very, very hard to uphold a filibuster so that it is reserved only for very important issues. No more 60 votes to get anything through. If you want to filibuster, then you have to get up on the floor and tell the American people why you are preventing their business from being done.

Posted by: atlliberal on December 21, 2010 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

You don't have to be liberal or conservative to call for filibuster rules change. McConnell is simply interested in shutting the government down. If we want to be able to respond to anything in the next two years, we have to take away the Republicans ability to grind everything to a halt.

Posted by: Darsan54 on December 21, 2010 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Does the White House want to achieve anything in 2011?

I think if Obama gets the NEW START treaty then I think he will say he pretty accomplished 80% of what he wanted. The only things left to accomplish is an Energy plan, Immigration Reform, and Education Reform. Perhaps Education Reform can be accomplished in 2011 but the other two can be accomplished in Obama's next term.

The fight will be more over the budget.

However, for all of McConnell's obstruction the Democrats accomplished a HELL OF A LOT in 2009 & 2010.

Posted by: Maritza on December 21, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Is there any doubt that McConnell would change the filibuster rule as soon as he and his colleagues gained the slimmest of majorities in the Senate? There's no way he would put up with the kind of obstructionism he is inflicting on the chamber.

Democrats should do the same and enact new rules on Jan. 5. It also happens to be the right thing to do; I know of no other legislative body in the world that works (or doesn't work) this way.

And what of when Democrats are in the minority? I'll live with it. Elections should have consequences. If you're in the minority, the answer is to win more seats, not to block legislation with procedural tactics.

Posted by: dsimon on December 21, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

McConnell is a self-important blowhard. He has ineffective in this lame duck session. All he had to do was run out the clock and he failed. Miserably.

Posted by: Jose Padilla on December 21, 2010 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

The coming fight will be in with the house over the budget. McConnell's role is going to diminish the next couple of years. That said a good filibuster reform might be to deny cloture on less than 60 votes the first time, a few days later require 55 and then a few days later on 50 votes. In short no permanent filibuster but allow the minority to force some measure of extended debate so the minority isn't constantly rolled.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 21, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

It isn't just the Senate's filibuster rules that need to be reformed.

Anonymous holds need to be banned. If a senator wants to put a hold on something, then he or she needs to stand up on the floor of the Senate and tell the country why.

And unanimous consent rules need to be changed. If a senator objects to moving forward without a bill being read out loud, then they need to be present in the Senate chamber for the hours that it takes to read the bill. If they leave the room, they are considered to have withdrawn their objection.

Senate Democrats who object to filibuster reform believe that they are preserving protections for themselves when they are in the minority. But they're delusional if they think that Republicans won't change the rules to eliminate those protections the first time the rules are used to slow down the Republicans agenda of tax cuts for their millionaire patrons or corporate johns.

Posted by: SteveT on December 21, 2010 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

IF Congress fails to pass appropriations in a timely manner, Obama should claim the executive powers asserted by George W. Bush and operate the government as he sees fit. If they don't like it, they can try to impeach him.

Posted by: JMG on December 21, 2010 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Shrewd tactics? Then a 2 year must be shrewd. Any child knows "no" is the only response then cry, scream, rant and throw a tantrum. No fox this guy.

Posted by: mickster99 on December 21, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with Maritza.

I think the White House cut the deal on taxes to try for a lame duck trifecta consisting of stimulus, DADT and New START figuring that, come January, nothing at all will get through Congress and all governing will be done by executing through the Executive Branch.

They've got two-thirds of the trifecta and the last one looks like a possibility.

I can't imagine that the White House needs to be warned about dealing with Mitch.

Posted by: Rod Hoffman on December 21, 2010 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

OK, everybody sing along:

You're a mean one, Mr. Mitch.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel.

You're a monster, Mr. Mitch.
Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You've got garlic in your soul.

You're a rotter, Mr. Mitch.
You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a dead tomato splotched
With moldy purple spots,

Your soul is an apalling dump heap overflowing
with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable
rubbish imaginable,
Mangled up in tangled up knots.

You nauseate me, Mr. Mitch.
With a nauseaus super-naus.
You're a crooked jerky jockey
And you drive a crooked hoss.
Mr. Mitch.

Posted by: delNorte on December 21, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Let's see, do I have this right? Isn't it about time for Obama to start pretending that he is a frustrated progressive or is it too soon?

Posted by: Michael7843853 on December 21, 2010 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

The senate Democrats should block everything that comes their way from the Republican held House. Everything. Give it right back to them.

Posted by: SaintZak on December 21, 2010 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Its a little late for the White House to wake up don't yah think? McConnell became the de facto POTUS 3 weeks ago. He owns the dude who is sitting there for another 2 years and 30 days. Frankly, that time can not pass fast enough. As to the filibuster, the Dems will be in the minority in the Senate in just over 2 years, but I agree that regardless of what the Dems do in January filibusters will cease to exist come January 2012. Of course, it will not make any difference because nothing that the GOP does not want will pass the House anyway.

Posted by: Terry on December 21, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

It's great that you're pointing out McConnell's cynical approach to "democracy," I hope that the Whitehouse does the same thing. I know it's loathe to criticize others, but this tactic needs all the attention it deserves - and since he has not been exactly coy about this strategy, it would not be impolite to call him on it.

Posted by: tomb on December 21, 2010 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

McConnell - no doubt as a boy, the last to be chosen for the neighborhood ball game! Oh, how he must be feeling the revenge.

Too bad his depravity comes at the expense of our nation's ability to do the people's business! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 21, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

he's not honest; he doesn't negotiate in good faith; he has no real respect for institutional norms; he's proven himself willing to put his party's interests above the nation's interests; and he's never demonstrated any working knowledge of any area of public policy

McConnell may be an exceptional Senate Minority Leader, but he's a thoroughly unexceptional Republican.

Posted by: Gregory on December 21, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Other GOP "good old boys" also exulted in the same kind of hubris - Bill Frist, Tom DeLay, Denny Hastert, Trent Lott -- where are they now? Something tells me McConnell's day will soon come when he joins his buddies on the dustheap of history.

Posted by: June on December 21, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

"... reevaluate those expectations."

What an adorable sentiment.

Posted by: Bill on December 21, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Time for Obama and the Democrats in the Senate to drastically reduce federal spending in Kentucky - that's how LBJ would have dealt with McConnell.

Posted by: MuddyLee on December 21, 2010 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Someone pointed out that by not passing an omnibus bill, or a reality -based budget, any Cont. REs. funding can have the effect of allowing the executive branch more leeway in how things get spent.

A propos MuddyLee - let's take a look at the KY - based funding, and see where a good faith 10 - 20%% reduction can occur to start working on that bad ole' deficity thingy .....

Posted by: bigutah on December 21, 2010 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Please, MuddyLee, some of us have to LIVE in Kentucky with the guy. But, if you let us have the Unemployment Insurance (the ONLY thing that Senator McConnell reluctantly let us have), I'm with you 100%.

Posted by: knightphoenix2 on December 21, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Uhm, who cares? Republicans hold the House, Dems hold the senate - McConnell won't get to get his game on.

Posted by: Alli on December 21, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

I don't see anything that could go wrong when we let a backassed selfcentered corporate whore from an even more backassed state can set the national agenda. All we need are a trio of banjos as backup.

Posted by: Dave1 on December 21, 2010 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

If you watch him being interviewed, McConnell is an artist at either reframing a reporter's question and then responding to his own distortions or simpy ignoring a question in order to spout rhetoric that may relate only generally to the topic. On a scale of 1 to 100, he is intellectually and factually dishonest at least 90% of the time, but he is the perfect bag man for the rich oligarchs who own and run America.

Posted by: max on December 21, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Senate Dems need no further proof that they need to change the Senate rules for the 112th Congress.

If they don't vote for the Merkley/Udall, etc. filibuster reform or some other reform then they might as well not even bother with the next two years.

Posted by: Hannah on December 21, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Well, next year the GOP will have a much more conservative house which will be advancing policy McConnell actually likes, so everyone will change rolls, yet again. It's likely to be a very unproductive Congress.

Posted by: Jamie on December 21, 2010 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

McConnell is a master politician who has done a bang up job at turning a large number of posters on this forum against Obama. I suspect he (McConnell) 'welcomes your hatred' and enjoys watching the negative posters do his work for him.

Posted by: Seould on December 21, 2010 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

"I can only hope White House officials are taking note of these..." Steve Benen re: McConnell's remarks.

And I can only hope the MSM finally takes note of those remarks and starts reporting on how the actions of Senator from KY* are in line with with his words.

*the initials are deliberate...

Posted by: Doug on December 21, 2010 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK



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