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McConnell Experiences Election Cycle Catharsis – Sort of

This past year, we have witnessed the wholesale collapse of the Senate GOP Conference.  With the help of Senate Republicans, Democrats successfully passed the fiscal cliff tax hike/stimulus bill, amnesty, a massive farm bill, an internet sales tax, and most recently – the confirmation of an array of radical executive nominees.

Throughout this year, as John McCain and Lindsey Graham have divided the conference, everyone is asking the same question – where is Mitch?  Where is the party leader?  Despite voting against some of these items, he has never been seen coalescing a filibuster, and in some cases, has privately praised the other side.  The only major success occurred during the gun control debate when Ted Cruz and Rand Paul dragged McConnell into a filibuster that actually helped defeat the aggressive push against the Second Amendment.

But, alas, primary challenges tend to perform magic.  Mitch McConnell has already been modifying his voting behavior ever since the threat of the primary was first evident earlier this year.  Now that Matt Bevin is nipping at his heals, McConnell is suddenly concerned about conference cohesion heading into September’s budget battles.

As Politico noted on Sunday, Mitch McConnell is picking the spending levels of the 2011 Budget Control Act as his hill to die on; as the only issue through which he actually performs like the party leader and whips up support for the Republican position.  McConnell is asserting that he is committed to retaining the sequester cuts in the upcoming funding bill when the current budget CR expires at midnight September 30.

Let’s step back for a moment and explore the woeful misallocation of priorities with this budget strategy.  There are two points of contention with the upcoming CR.  One is whether we will block funding for Obamacare – the worst pending legislation on the books – before it takes root next year.  The other is over a few billion in random spending cuts.

As we’ve noted a number of times throughout the past few years of budget battles, McConnell’s 2011 debt ceiling deal was preposterous in that we granted Obama $2.4 trillion in new debt (to take him past election day) in exchange for non-transformational random cuts.  These cuts did not result in the closure of a single agency.  The military was the only major entity that was seriously affected the military.  Whether the EPA gets $7.5 billion in appropriations or $7.2 billion doesn’t really change its ability to destroy private sector jobs. Blocking Obamacare before it is implemented, on the other hand, is enormously consequential, and something we must pursue.

Hence, in classic Mitch magic, he is attempting to distract us with the shiny object of the sequester cuts that are already written into law.  Meanwhile, not only is he absent on the Obamacare fight, he is pressuring members to stay away from Mike Lee’s defund effort – to the extent that even the number two ranking Senate leader took his name off the letter.  And God forbid should he say anything about the GOP sell out to Chuck Schumer on amnesty, even as illegals continue to stream over the border.  With Mitch, it’s all about the least consequential way to feign conservative power to the folks back home.

As Erick noted last month, beware the Hatch effect and the Sixth year conversion.

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