by Jeffrey A. Rendall
Have Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s establishment chickens finally come home to roost?
The answer depends on your point-of-view. If you’re a liberal you’re likely clucking at the ineptitude of the Republican Senate to pass any semblance of Obamacare repeal and replace. Similarly, if you’re a member of the Washington establishment you’re applauding the fact that a few GOP senators were willing and able to Chickens roostingbuck McConnell and join every single Democrat to prevent the repeal of even the tiniest smidgen of the crumbling Obama-era healthcare law.
But if you’re a conservative proponent of a constitutionally limited and restrained efficiently-run government you’re furious that McConnell couldn’t find a way – any way – to pressure a few antagonists into lending their support for the basic concept of reforming healthcare.
And if you’re President Trump you’re now up in New Jersey (on a “working vacation”) looking back on your first half year in office wondering why you should have to explain to everyone within shouting distance why none of the big agenda items from last year’s campaign have managed to make it to your desk for a signature.
All fingers point to the puffy-faced bespectacled establishmentarian Mitch McConnell. And Trump let his unhappiness with the Senate leader be known late last week through his favorite communications medium, Twitter.
Louis Nelson of Politico reported, “President Donald Trump continued his Twitter campaign against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday morning, complaining online that the Kentucky Republican ‘couldn’t get it done’ on repealing and replacing Obamacare…
“It was the second consecutive day that Trump lashed out against the majority leader over the GOP’s failure last month to advance legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, a promise that Republican Congressional candidates across the country have run on for more than seven years and one that Trump made a major part of his own presidential campaign.”
Nelson also reported McConnell had indicated earlier in the week that Trump had “excessive expectations” about the pace of legislation. Meanwhile, establishment spokesmen maintain the president and McConnell continue to have a very good working relationship.
There’s little reason to doubt the two Republicans have a hospitable working coexistence. McConnell certainly must be grateful to Trump for saving his skin with the conservative base last November when by all appearances it looked like he was going to be demoted to Minority Leader again when the Democrats took over everything after the election.
Thankfully it didn’t happen that way. McConnell retained the seat of power due to Trump’s electoral strength in a number of key states. The only question remaining at that point was whether the establishment figurehead from Kentucky would be able to deliver on promises he’d made for years – not only concerning Obamacare repeal but also in advancing the conservative agenda.
Like his counterpart Paul Ryan in the House, McConnell has always talked a good game when it came down to begging people to vote Republican. He willingly participated in the “show vote” mentality that provided cover for GOP establishment candidates with “My record is conservative” campaign soundbites without doing much to stand up to Obama, Harry Reid and the rest of the Democrats’ corrupted elitist junta.
Even the Republicans’ so-called “victories” were really just minor barriers to the unremitting march towards big government. The infamous “sequester” deal negotiated by the two parties in 2013 is all-but gutted and its limits ignored. By all appearances McConnell and his establishment pals were never interested in reducing the size of government in the first place and gave little credence to even trying to slow down its growth.
Nonetheless, conservatives fought hard to get McConnell re-elected in 2014, figuring there would be little chance of gaining a Republican senate majority if the then-Minority Leader fell to his opponent in his home state. McConnell won. People were thrilled. I was happy too. Then after the election it was back to business as usual.
Now with Trump in the White House McConnell should be more powerful than he’s ever been. Even though the Republicans’ senate advantage is only two seats it theoretically should be larger with the anticipated support of red state Democrats like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin or North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp.
None of it materialized after last November. The usual Republican establishment suspects (primarily Senators Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and John McCain) have tripped up McConnell at various points. And those red state Democrats are marching in regular ideological goosestep with Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren and Al Franken (among others).
Why isn’t McConnell leaning on the should be friendly Democrats to at least give the appearance of cooperation? Shouldn’t he be making it publicly known how just a few Democrats and Republicans are holding up the entire legislative process? Couldn’t something be done? Anything?
The fact is Trump’s expectations aren’t “excessive” at all. Senate procedures do slow down the process but already there have been a number of votes on Obamacare repeal, all having been shot down by the Democrats in unison and a few Republican turncoats. Why haven’t their committee slots been yanked? Why hasn’t the majority leader called them out in the court of the public? Why is McConnell leaving it to Trump to do all the political dirty work by tweet?
All of this has some in the media blaming Trump for the deteriorating situation in the GOP. David M. Drucker wrote in the Washington Examiner, “Trump’s style has been to criticize Congressional Republicans as though he were separate from them, rather than to embrace his role as the leader of the Republican Party and discuss their legislative goals, successes and failures, as shared.
“That has rankled Republicans already unhappy with what in their view is a president who has squandered the bully pulpit over an obsession with a Russia investigation he claims is fake — and protecting his personal brand — and declined to invest his political capital in replacing Obamacare.”
(Double take) What? Did I read that right? Some Republicans think Trump hasn’t invested his “political capital” in replacing Obamacare? And Trump has failed to “embrace” his role as leader of the party? What does the president need to do, suggest a group hug on the steps of the capitol building to demonstrate that all Republicans truly do love each other?
I find it refreshing Trump doesn’t choose to lump himself in with the establishment elites in the legislative branch. There’s nothing in the Constitution mandating that the executive be chums with congressmen and senators. If anything there’s a heavy implication that the president is supposed to act as a check on the lightly restrained populist instincts of lawmakers.
It’s called a veto. Trump is simply using his position to suggest that Congress (and specifically members of his own party) get going, stop making excuses and pass some laws.
Republican voters appear to concur. Drucker further reported, “Trump’s voting base is so far siding with him. According to a new poll from CNN, 68 percent judge the GOP-controlled Congress to be a failure and Republicans themselves are split on the question. Republican approval of the party’s congressional leadership has fallen from 75 percent in January to just 39 percent now. But Trump isn’t doing himself any favors in winning the kind of support he would need to have more influence on Capitol Hill.”
Again I disagree with Drucker’s conclusion. Even if Trump were the consummate kind of leadership bootlicker George W. Bush turned out to be it wouldn’t make a bit of difference on the floors of the House and Senate. The establishment doesn’t care – at all – about making “friends” as much as it does about preserving its own power. And you bet Trump is a threat to that power.
GOP congressmen and senators complain Trump isn’t supplying the “capital” to help them pass bills but it isn’t clear exactly how the president might provide such assistance. Trump has hosted a number of meetings at the White House and offered more than enough encouragement using the White House’s considerable media megaphone to prod them towards success. They simply aren’t taking what Trump is recommending and then they’re complaining to the media that he is ineffective.
The old saying goes “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Perhaps conservatives and Republicans should take up a collection, purchase a few hundred pooches and have them delivered to the front door of the capitol. If the ruling class needs “friends” so badly then maybe they should look somewhere outside of politics to find them.
But if they want a president and party leader who expects results, they should appreciate they now have one in Donald Trump. Americans are better off for it.
Reprinted with permission by ConservativeHQ.com