The Regrets of Mitch McConnell

“I am amused with their comments about obstructionism,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an interview over the weekend with the New York Times. “I wish we had been able to obstruct more. They were able to get the health care bill through. They were able to get the stimulus through. They were able to get the financial reform through. These were all major pieces of legislation, and if I would have had enough votes to stop them, I would have.”

Don't fret Mitch come January you'll have the opportunity to obstruct to your heart's content and to the benefit of the narrow wealthy elite you serve. And let's be frank, obstruct is all you are capable of because a new idea to call your own you have not a single one.

But just for the record let's stroll down memory lane and recall some of Mitch's accomplishments this session. As of July 31st, only 42.8 percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees had been confirmed. No other President in recent memory even comes close to such a dismal number. The next lowest confirmation rate was that of George Herbert Walker Bush who 79.3 percent of his judicial nominees confirmed at 18 month mark of his Presidency.

In the Senate, the GOP has waged a war on any and all Democratic intiatives that makes Sherman's march through Georgia look like a walk in the park. In this Congress, we were treated to Senator Shelby record-setting blanket hold on all executive appointments. At that time Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic wrote that Shelby's move represented "a seminal moment in the evolution of Republican obstructionism." He might have also called it what it really was: hostage taking and extortion. Outside the Senate, those are felonious acts; inside the Senate, it is how the GOP operates.

Worth recalling is the three-page memo that New Hampshire's Judd Gregg penned and circulated to his Republican colleagues, reminding them of various procedural tactics they can utilize to obstruct, delay, and undermine the debate on health care. Sam Stein of the Huffington Post called it "the equivalent of an obstruction manual -- a how-to for holding up health care reform."

The lengths to which the GOP resorted in their aim to derail the President's health care agenda has been extraordinary. Never mind the rhetoric, which was beyond the pale, consider that in December 2009, Republican Senators attempted to block the renewal of all military funding in an effort to halt the passage of the health care reform bill. What can one say when Senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are willing to play politics with the welfare of those serving in uniform.

Early on Senator McConnell, as Senate Minority Leader, opted for a strategy that puts his party first and the country second. Here's Daniel Balke writing in the Las Cruces Sun-News on the small business assistance bill:

With mid-term elections quickly approaching, GOP leadership has decided that reflexively opposing President Obama at every turn represents its best political play. In doing so, Republicans have abandoned their party's long-held rhetorical tenet of supporting small businesses in a ploy to make Democrats look ineffectual and bolster their hopes of regaining control Congress in November.

The Republicans' dangerous wager was on display on July 30, when the party blocked a Democratic measure in the Senate that would have provided critical support to small business owners, including tax incentives for hiring workers and new loan opportunities to boost productivity. The bill enjoyed support from typical Republican bedfellows like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business. Moreover, several GOP senators, namely Small Business Committee ranking member Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, played a significant role in drafting the legislation.

Cooperative committee work notwithstanding, when the time came to vote, not a single Republican senator lent their support, and the measure was defeated along strictly party lines.

Pure political posturing explains the GOP decision to oppose cross-party legislation that would have provided critical support to small businesses. Small businesses represent the lifeblood of our country's economy. Our future economic prospects depend on their ability to hire workers, expand production, and increase profit.

However, at a time when unemployment continues to hover around 10 percent, economic growth appears less robust than a few months ago, and with concern about a double dip recession growing, Republican leaders made a stone-cold political calculation. Simply saying "no" to every Democratic initiative is their best way to retake Congress.

The question I have for Mitch McConnell, then what?

Tags: GOP Obstructionism, Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Richard Shelby, Senatore Judd Gregg (all tags)

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