Mitch McConnell, the man who broke America

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He once called himself the proud guardian of gridlock:

“No majority leader wants written on his tombstone that he presided over the end of the Senate,” the minority leader said

He continued: “Breaking the rules to change the rules is un-American. I just hope the majority leader thinks about his legacy, the future of his party, and, most importantly, the future of our country before he acts.” 

Are these the words of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as the Republican majority changed Senate rules this week to do away with filibusters of Supreme Court nominations? 

Actually, they were uttered in 2013, by then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), when Democrats pushed through a similar filibuster change for lesser nominations.

That McConnell did a 180 on the topic — going from the institutional defender of the filibuster to the man who destroyed it — is unsurprising. He has frequently shifted his views to suit the needs of the moment. But in this case McConnell was correct in 2013, and what he just did this week was even more ruinous than what he accused the Democrats of doing then. 

By rights, McConnell’s tombstone should say that he presided over the end of the Senate. And I’d add a second line: “He broke America.” No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government. His has been the epitome of unprincipled leadership, the triumph of tactics in service of short-term power. 

After McConnell justified his filibuster-ending “nuclear option” by saying it would be beneficial for the Senate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said this: “Whoever says that is a stupid idiot.” 

McConnell is no idiot. He is a clever man who does what works for him in the moment, consequences be damned. 

Back in 1994, McConnell lamented to the conservative Heritage Foundation that Republicans hadn’t used the filibuster enough: “I am a proud guardian of gridlock. I think gridlock is making a big comeback in the country.” 

For the next quarter-century, he made sure of it. Back then he was fighting all attempts at campaign-finance reform and spending limits, championing disclosure of contributions as the antidote. But when the Supreme Court allowed unlimited “dark money” in campaigns without disclosure, McConnell reversed course and has fought all attempts to enact disclosure. 

McConnell famously declared in 2010: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

You can read the rest at the Washington Post.

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