The Senate Republican Leader from Louisville has for decades been one of the staunchest defenders of the legislative tactic known as the filibuster, which essentially permits lawmakers from the minority party to coalesce and stop in its tracks legislation they find odious. Like a mother bear defending her cub, McConnell has consistently excoriated anyone looking to alter one of the upper chamber’s most popular tactics.
When Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, then serving in the majority, successfully moved to change the rule two years ago, prohibiting its use when it comes to most presidential appointees, McConnell flew into something approaching a rage, complaining of a tyranny of the majority over the minority.
A quick political lesson: Majority rules in the Senate except when it doesn’t. The minority can halt legislation from coming up for a vote if they simply refuse to proceed, initiating a filibuster. The majority can counteract the filibuster by seeking cloture, which requires 60 votes. If the majority doesn’t have the 60 votes to invoke cloture, it’s bye-bye legislation.
So McConnell’s defense of the filibuster is understandable. Over an eight-year period while serving as minority leader, from January 2007 to January 2015, the GOP utilized the filibuster 644 times, halting a vote in 292 of those instances. During the 113th Congress alone, from 2012 to 2014, McConnell forced the filing of 253 cloture motions – breaking the all-time record established during the 110th Congress when he forced 139 cloture motions.
To say that McConnell abused the filibuster is akin to saying the sun rises in the east. He vowed to halt President Obama’s legislative agenda in its tracks and, in some instances, succeeded. And the nation is poorer for it, as witnessed by governmental shutdowns, crises over raising the debt limit and legislative deadlock. It’s not hard finding McConnell’s fingerprints on all this. Give him a magnifying glass and he’ll proudly point them out to you.
Paybacks are . . .not pleasant
Which brings us to the present, where our boy Mitch is discovering that paybacks, as they say, are, indeed, hell. Minority Democrats have forced the filing of 57 cloture motions thus far during the first nine months of the 114th Congress, standing in the way of GOP efforts to kill Obamacare, ruin Planned Parenthood and destroy the Environmental Protection Agency.
Mitch is unhappy about the turn of events and his fellow Republican senators of an extreme conservative bent who never cared much for our boy to begin with – hello Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas – are even more upset about their inability to thwart Democratic tactics and send the nation reeling back to the stone age. They hold him responsible.
So, lost this week among events like the continuing soap opera over in the House, presidential debates and Donald Trump’s sustained mouthing off, was McConnell’s very hush-hush, on the q.t. decision to form a special task force to consider changes in the filibuster rule. The panel, led by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, a McConnell ally, will look at, among other things, eliminating filibusters on motions to proceed.
After defending the filibuster to his last breath when it worked to his advantage – and the disadvantage to the nation as a whole – McConnell all of a sudden is now willing to consider changes that, once again, work to his advantage.
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