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Kudos to Mitch McConnell

 

Well … I guess that wasn’t so hard to type. Yes, I have had many issues with the Senate Majority Leader and his tactics over the years. Especially #RememberMississippi ……. scratch that; that’s for another thread.

I have read two articles today about the masterful job that Mitch McConnell has done with the Senate and judges. At the Wall Street Journal today, Fred Barnes makes a compelling case for the Master of Confirming Judges. Mr. Barnes shares that not only did Majority Leader McConnell keep his cats herded on both Garland and Gorsuch, but he is a perfect 21 for 21 in confirming the federal appeals courts nominees of President Trump.

In the second article, at National Review, Jonathan Tobin makes a solid case that Mitch has really done a great job of herding the cats in the Senate. And cats they are when you consider that both Susan Collins and Ted Cruz are a part of this community. Tobin highlights how Mitch has become a valued figure whose advice must at a minimum be sought out by President Trump.

And… when you compare the job done by the Majority Leader in the Senate with that of his counterpart in the House, Speaker Ryan, Mitch gets even higher kudos. The Senate is much harder to keep together when only one or two can upset the entire apple cart. In the House, it couldn’t be messier and divided. Leadership is definitely lacking. Sure, it’s not easy and the GOP House has the same spectrum of worldviews and courage as does the Senate. But unlike the lame duck Speaker, Mitch “rules the Senate and has earned the respect if not the loyalty of the White House and most Republicans.”

So… Mitch McConnell, Master of Confirming Judges… this Bud’s for you!

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There are 28 comments.

  1. Thatcher

    Thanks for the links. Great reading! Go Mitch!

    • #1
    • July 10, 2018 at 1:08 pm
    • 5 likes
  2. Thatcher

    I’d hate to have to run the Senate. 

    • #2
    • July 10, 2018 at 1:18 pm
    • 4 likes
  3. Inactive

    So… I thought the house was actually passing legislation that the Senate won’t vote on?

    But yes, McConnell is doing well on judges.

    • #3
    • July 10, 2018 at 1:35 pm
    • 2 likes
  4. Reagan

    Amen! I appreciate that this post did not come easily for you. Thank you for your intellectual integrity and personal courage.

    • #4
    • July 10, 2018 at 1:38 pm
    • 6 likes
  5. Member
    Columbo Post author

    AltarGirl (View Comment):

    So… I thought the house was actually passing legislation that the Senate won’t vote on?

    But yes, McConnell is doing well on judges.

    Yes. With McCain on leave, in the Senate all it takes is for Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski or even Rand Paul to have a cow over something and it’s stuck.

    That is not the fault of Mitch McConnell.

    • #5
    • July 10, 2018 at 1:45 pm
    • 7 likes
  6. Member

    Remembering wise advice from my mother, I will issue an official “No Comment.” (That is the best ol’ Mrs. McClellan is going to get from me.)

    [EDIT: Added the ” ol’ ” for the sake of accuracy.]

    • #6
    • July 10, 2018 at 2:07 pm
    • 1 like
  7. Member

    Columbo: In the second article, at National Review, Jonathan Tobin makes a solid case that Mitch has really done a great job of herding the cats in the Senate.

    No, he doesn’t. He doesn’t make a case at all. He simply states that McConnell has herded Senate Republicans without explaining how or why McConnell alone can do it. Most of the article regards McConnell’s supposed wisdom regarding elections and other matters. 

    Columbo (View Comment):

    With McCain on leave, in the Senate all it takes is for Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski or even Rand Paul to have a cow over something and it’s stuck.

    That is not the fault of Mitch McConnell.

    So he can’t be blamed for failure to secure votes on legislation, but he gets credit when the votes are there on judges? Granted, legislation is more complicated negotiation because bills are not all-or-nothing proposals. But is it not a double standard to praise him for success while excusing him for failure? 

    McConnell is surely not the only Senator trying to persuade colleagues, so it is not clear to me how votes are swung (let alone backroom deals to buy them). And just as surely the selection of candidates by the President’s advisers is the more influential step in the process of getting candidates approved. A solid product requires less advertising.

     

    • #7
    • July 10, 2018 at 2:37 pm
    • 1 like
  8. Member

    Incidentally, a consequence of bypassing actual democracy with backroom dealing by representatives of representatives is that those involved can’t demand credit for negotiations invisible to the public. 

    • #8
    • July 10, 2018 at 2:42 pm
    • 1 like
  9. Reagan

    Mitch McConnell’s autobiography “The Long Game: A Memoir” is a great book. I recommend it highly.

    • #9
    • July 10, 2018 at 2:44 pm
    • 1 like
  10. Thatcher

    Let’s go for a whole case.

    • #10
    • July 10, 2018 at 4:40 pm
    • Like
  11. Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Columbo: In the second article, at National Review, Jonathan Tobin makes a solid case that Mitch has really done a great job of herding the cats in the Senate.

    No, he doesn’t. He doesn’t make a case at all. He simply states that McConnell has herded Senate Republicans without explaining how or why McConnell alone can do it. Most of the article regards McConnell’s supposed wisdom regarding elections and other matters.

    Columbo (View Comment):

    With McCain on leave, in the Senate all it takes is for Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski or even Rand Paul to have a cow over something and it’s stuck.

    That is not the fault of Mitch McConnell.

    So he can’t be blamed for failure to secure votes on legislation, but he gets credit when the votes are there on judges? Granted, legislation is more complicated negotiation because bills are not all-or-nothing proposals. But is it not a double standard to praise him for success while excusing him for failure?

    McConnell is surely not the only Senator trying to persuade colleagues, so it is not clear to me how votes are swung (let alone backroom deals to buy them). And just as surely the selection of candidates by the President’s advisers is the more influential step in the process of getting candidates approved. A solid product requires less advertising.

     

    Is it that legislation is more difficult than judicial confirmations? Or is it that Harry Reid nuked the filibuster on the latter, so Senators cannot block confirmation by holding out for a 60-vote majority to pass?

    With such a slim majority (51-49 counting the absent McCain), it only takes two GOP defections to turn a majority success into a minority failure.

    • #11
    • July 10, 2018 at 4:59 pm
    • Like
  12. Member

    In today’s act of projection, McConnell’s counterpart, Chucky Schumer, has just officially pronounced Hardiman, Barrett, Kavanaugh, Thapar “way out of the mainstream.” 

    • #12
    • July 10, 2018 at 6:06 pm
    • 3 likes
  13. Inactive

    AltarGirl (View Comment):

    So… I thought the house was actually passing legislation that the Senate won’t vote on?

    But yes, McConnell is doing well on judges.

    They are. Ryan has a greater margin for error than McConnell does.

    In fairness to Ryan, he never really wanted to be Speaker. He was perfectly happy being a backbench wonk. He only became Speaker because he was literally the only man who both the Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group could agree on. He’s the classic case of a guy who was great at what he used to do but got promoted way beyond his skill level.

    • #13
    • July 10, 2018 at 6:06 pm
    • 8 likes
  14. Member

    “Cocaine Mitch” gets the job done. 😁

    • #14
    • July 10, 2018 at 8:58 pm
    • 3 likes
  15. Member

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    Amen! I appreciate that this post did not come easily for you. Thank you for your intellectual integrity and personal courage.

    I like the post too but it’s not like he’s storming Normandy or anything.

    • #15
    • July 11, 2018 at 5:07 am
    • Like
  16. Member
    Columbo Post author

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    Amen! I appreciate that this post did not come easily for you. Thank you for your intellectual integrity and personal courage.

    I like the post too but it’s not like he’s storming Normandy or anything.

    As the OP, I agree with this. I’ve read a couple of things by Jonathan Tobin at NR recently and mostly agreed with him, which prompted this somewhat conciliatory post by me about Mitch.

    I made three points: Mitch has a tough job. Mitch has been very good on judges. Mitch has been better than Ryan.

    That’s all I got. Any other defenses of the Majority Leader on this thread will be made by someone else. Carry on.

     

    • #16
    • July 11, 2018 at 5:19 am
    • 4 likes
  17. Member

    McConnell definitely deserves more respect than he was previously granted, and it’s good to see him getting his due. But his strengths definitely come with their own weaknesses.

    His great strength is recognizing the issues on which Republicans are sufficiently united and pushing those aggressively and relentlessly without concern for blowback or criticism (from the left or from his own ranks). See: judges, taxes, and blocking Obama’s agenda while he was still president.

    But the flip side is that he quietly stifles debate on nearly any issue on which Republicans aren’t at least 90% in agreement. The most obvious example is immigration reform, the issue that made Trump’s bones in the first place: McConnell strategically scheduled “debates” on immigration that were guaranteed to fail and not to make the national limelight, essentially sweeping it under the rug. The same with healthcare: a few half-hearted attempts at a bill, followed by a declaration that the issue was off the table for the time being.

    A congressional leader shouldn’t be a policy wonk, but does need to appreciate the difficulty of finding consensus when his members have genuine policy disagreements, and he needs the fortitude to see those debates through. And neither McConnell nor Trump has displayed any evidence of this trait.

    • #17
    • July 11, 2018 at 5:34 am
    • 3 likes
  18. Member

    Fritz (View Comment):
    Is it that legislation is more difficult than judicial confirmations? Or is it that Harry Reid nuked the filibuster on the latter, so Senators cannot block confirmation by holding out for a 60-vote majority to pass?

    Legislation is indeed more difficult.

    Remember that the Senate passed a very ambitious reconciliation resolution (meaning they only needed 50+1 votes to pass) and loudly announced their intention to aggressively push the envelope of what would be considered eligible for reconciliation. This was supposed to be the vehicle for repealing Obamacare.

    But in the end the Senate never came close to testing the boundaries of the reconciliation process because they never came close to a bill that actually repealed Obamacare and had a chance of passage.

    Judges are indeed much easier because they are not only a binary up-or-down issue, but the actual substance of the debate (i.e. the nominee) is determined by somebody else.

    • #18
    • July 11, 2018 at 5:37 am
    • 1 like
  19. Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Incidentally, a consequence of bypassing actual democracy with backroom dealing by representatives of representatives is that those involved can’t demand credit for negotiations invisible to the public.

    I disagree: backroom dealing is a crucial component of “actual democracy” – at least representative democracy – since time immemorial. Certainly our framers would never have dreamed of the level of transparency we now expect, especially given the difficulty of travelling to DC and the primitive methods of communication.

    Also, why the disdain for “representatives of representatives”? Since we’re talking about the Senate here, that was the original definition of each Senator in the Constitution.

    • #19
    • July 11, 2018 at 5:41 am
    • 2 likes
  20. Member

    Umbra of Nex (View Comment):
    In fairness to Ryan, he never really wanted to be Speaker. He was perfectly happy being a backbench wonk. He only became Speaker because he was literally the only man who both the Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group could agree on. He’s the classic case of a guy who was great at what he used to do but got promoted way beyond his skill level.

    Absolutely. He’s a smart, personable guy, and the only one who would take the job, however reluctantly. 

    • #20
    • July 11, 2018 at 5:49 am
    • 2 likes
  21. Coolidge

    Columbo: And… when you compare the job done by the Majority Leader in the Senate with that of his counterpart in the House, Speaker Ryan, Mitch gets even higher kudos. The Senate is much harder to keep together when only one or two can upset the entire apple cart. In the House, it couldn’t be messier and divided. Leadership is definitely lacking. Sure, it’s not easy and the GOP House has the same spectrum of worldviews and courage as does the Senate. [emphasis added]

    The House has a much wider spectrum of worldviews than the Senate. Each Senator has to win a statewide election, and with a few exceptions that puts some limits on how extreme a Senator can be. But thanks to highly tailored congressional district boundaries we have some House members that can easily win 70 or 80% of votes in their district. Many of those same representatives would have no chance at all in a statewide race. Ryan has more cushion to work with in that he has a bigger majority than McConnell and he doesn’t have to worry about filibusters and other restrictive Senate rules, but he’s got a lot more cats to herd and his cats are way wilder. Neither job is easy, but given what he’s got to work with I’ve been more impressed with Ryan than McConnell. Cocaine Mitch has done some great work on judges, but he’s not pushing forward on other areas with the same level of success.

    • #21
    • July 11, 2018 at 6:17 am
    • Like
  22. Coolidge

    Fritz (View Comment):
    Is it that legislation is more difficult than judicial confirmations? Or is it that Harry Reid nuked the filibuster on the latter, so Senators cannot block confirmation by holding out for a 60-vote majority to pass?

    The filibuster threshold is the real dividing line. One or two Republicans can break rank during legislation because they aren’t actually the tipping vote. They need a handful of Democrats. It’s a bit of grandstanding they know doesn’t change the ultimate outcome of the vote. (Big caveat here for the budget reconciliation process which requires a simple majority. The “mavericks” really did torpedo partial Obamacare repeal in this process.) 

    Considering the reconciliation process and political realities in the senate, I’d give McConnell an A+ on judicial confirmations and B- for legislation. 

    • #22
    • July 11, 2018 at 6:39 am
    • 2 likes
  23. Member

    I have thought Mitch was a good guy and underappreciated. And 2018 has proved him to be even better than I expected!

    • #23
    • July 11, 2018 at 12:02 pm
    • 3 likes
  24. Member

    Much of my problem with Mitch McConnell is this:

    You should not have to reach a 60-vote threshold to get RID of laws!

    Having a 60-vote threshold to make new laws might be a good idea in many circumstances, but what’s the other alternative for fixing the country and its economy?

    Spend future generations into oblivion?!!!!!!!!???

    • #24
    • July 11, 2018 at 5:34 pm
    • Like
  25. Inactive

    Mendel (View Comment):
    And neither McConnell nor Trump has displayed any evidence of this trait.

    One of the things that I have liked about Trump is that he appears thoroughly committed to letting (and requiring) the legislative branch to legislate. It is not the president’s job to mediate them… that should be the speaker’s job.

    I was disappointed that Trump has resorted to EA in more pressing circumstances when congress failed. Congress needs to own the laws of this country and one really great thing that could come out of this presidency is restored balance of our governing branches.

    • #25
    • July 11, 2018 at 5:57 pm
    • 1 like
  26. Member

    Mendel (View Comment):
    I disagree: backroom dealing is a crucial component of “actual democracy” – at least representative democracy – since time immemorial. Certainly our framers would never have dreamed of the level of transparency we now expect, especially given the difficulty of travelling to DC and the primitive methods of communication.

    Fair enough. But why should we assume he is the critical influencer? Are there not private conversations between many Senators? And should we not wonder what he trades in exchange for votes on this or that? No politician deserves blind trust. It is only what they do and advocate in public view that we can surely credit to them. 

    True, my critique of representation-in-turn is more apt for the House than the Senate. But we don’t elect Senators to meekly wait for some other Senators — a select few — to decide for all what can be debated and tested. It is not Constitutional that a few decide for all what can be considered for law. We already have nine judges to play at royalty.

    • #26
    • July 11, 2018 at 6:40 pm
    • 1 like
  27. Member

    AltarGirl (View Comment):

    Mendel (View Comment):
    And neither McConnell nor Trump has displayed any evidence of this trait.

    One of the things that I have liked about Trump is that he appears thoroughly committed to letting (and requiring) the legislative branch to legislate. It is not the president’s job to mediate them… that should be the speaker’s job.

    Since no law can be passed without the President’s signature, he’s co-equal to Congress when it comes to drafting and passing legislation (due to the partisan divide in Congress a veto override is currently a practical impossibility).

    And as the most popular Republican in DC (among Republican voters), he has both the bully pulpit and the political capital to persuade voters to swallow whatever painful compromise might be necessary to get something difficult like immigration or healthcare reform passed. Obama did this on Obamacare when he unilaterally took the “public option” off the table, which really ticked off his base but was crucial to getting the bill passed.

    Finally, the cry from Trump supporters all through 2016 was that they couldn’t trust any DC establishment Republicans to do anything right, thus we needed Trump to go in there and give them all a swift kick in the pants. Now Trump is in DC and his supporters are saying “why should Trump have to give them a swift kick in the pants?”. If Congressional Republicans were too stupid to do anything right in 2016, why should they suddenly become capable in 2017?

    • #27
    • July 12, 2018 at 2:30 am
    • Like
  28. Member

    Since I don’t want to turn this into another Trump debate, I’ll gladly concede that Trump is no worse about avoiding debate on thorny issues than any other elected Republican in Washington. From Trump to McConnell and Ryan to Ted Cruz and Mark Meadows, nobody wants to take real legislative initiative on topics that divide the caucus.

    And we know from experience that any backbencher can have a big effect: remember how Ted Cruz got the government to shut down as a first-year Senator? So it’s not just leadership that carries the blame for inactivity – it’s every Senator and Representative.

    So Trump doesn’t come in for any special blame here; indeed, he’s really indistinguishable from any other mainstream Republican in this respect.

    • #28
    • July 12, 2018 at 2:31 am
    • 1 like