Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed The Tennessee Star National Correspondent Neil McCabe to the newsmaker line to describe the reasoning behind the passing of a reckless infrastructure bill and the Democrats’ bait and switch on Republicans.
Leahy: But for now, we want to talk with our Washington correspondent, the one and only and the very best Washington correspondent in the country, representing The Star News Network and The Tennessee Star, Neil McCabe. Good morning, Neil.
McCabe: So good to be with you. Good morning.
Leahy: The cavemen. Those 19 Republican senators who caved: Mitch McConnell, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Mitt Romney, they all genuflected before the Joe Biden agenda. They passed this $1.2 trillion “infrastructure monstrosity.”
And then, surprise, surprise, four o’clock in the morning, they jam through this $3.5 trillion additional spending bill that has crazy things like, oh, I don’t know, giving illegal aliens a path the citizenship. That sort of stuff. What do you make of this mess?
McCabe: It’s interesting that back a month or so ago when Biden said, wow, as soon as we get this $1.5 billion bill passed with the Republican help and when the Republicans give us all the stuff we can’t do by ourselves, then we’ll go ahead and pass the stuff that we can pass without them.
And the Republicans are like, whoa, whoa, hey. This was a betrayal. We had no idea. We thought that the $1.5 trillion bill was standalone instead of doing reconciliation. And, of course, all of that has gone to the side.
I’ve said before that the calendar was working against Biden and that Biden ran out of runway. He’s run out of runway for packing the Supreme Court; D.C. and Puerto Rican statehood; $15 minimum wage, all of these certain agenda items.
But the infrastructure bill basically came back to life because Mitch McConnell decided he was going to stick it to Trump. And that’s basically what we have. And we have the spectacle of Republicans putting this thing over the top.
It’s very difficult to mount a fight against the $3.5 trillion bill if you have 20 Republicans voting for the $1.5 billion bill. And you have guys like John Thune, who is up for reelection in 2022 from South Dakota.
He’s the Whip. He’s supposed to be organizing the conservatives, the Republicans, to oppose the president’s agenda. And Thune, because of his own election coming up in 2022, voted against the filibuster.
He voted against the bill. He was telling everybody what a great idea it was to vote for him. He didn’t put any pressure on it. Mike Rounds, the Republican Center from his own state, voted for it. Where was the opposition?
I don’t know. And then you have guys like Mike Crapo from Idaho plus 19 Republican states. John Hoeven, North Dakota plus 20. This is a structural problem, Mike, that we have with the Republican Party in the Senate, where you have so many of these moderate and almost left-wing senators who are holding safe Republican seats.
And the conservatives are all in sort of battleground state seats because the conservatives win by surprise. But if you look at all of these safe Republican seats, they’re all people who voted for this infrastructure bill with the blessing of McConnell.
What you should have, if you are structuring this properly, is your conservatives in the safe seats so that they can take the tough votes and give the other people a break. And you look at how the Democrats do it.
The Democrats have all their craziest left-wing lunatics in safe seats so they can take the lunatic votes and give their moderates a break. And I think that this whole infrastructure catastrophe has exposed structural problems in the Republican party, especially in the Senate.
And I think most of all, it shows that Mitch McConnell will go to any length to embarrass and stick it to Trump because Trump planted the flag. And he said that he didn’t want this thing passed. And Mitch McConnell said, hold my beer.
Leahy: Let me ask you this. What if Donald Trump had said nothing about this? What would McConnell have done?
McCabe: I think there would have been internal pressures to try to mount the defense and try to block the $3.5 trillion bill. I mean, the Senate is 50/50. There are three Democratic senators who are on the bubble.
And there’s another nine who are up for reelection. You could have mounted an effort. You could have made an ideological and political and cultural case against the $3.5 bill.
There’s no point talking about the $1.5 billion bill because that was a gift. That was dead in the water. The Democrats could not pass it without Republican help.
Leahy: It has to do with, of course, reconciliation and closure. But explain for our listeners why.
McCabe: Sure. There’s an idea that you cannot stop the federal budget from passing in the Senate. You need 60 votes to end debate on legislation and force a vote because unless you vote to end debate, debate goes on forever.
If you don’t have 60 votes, then everything just continues forever. And it never comes to the floor. And basically, 41 senators can block legislation in the Senate. That’s the whole filibuster.
However, the Budget Act, it says that you cannot filibuster the federal budget. And they call that the reconciliation process. And so once every fiscal year, you are allowed to flag one of your bills.
And you say, this bill is our federal budget bill. It is privileged. Each side gets 30 hours of debate on each side, but it is immune from the filibuster. And so instead of needing 60 votes, you only need 51 votes to pass it.
And you take that budget bill and you load up. You put as much on the cart as you possibly can. However, the parliamentarians are going to look at this thing and say well, wait a minute. That’s not really part of the budget.
That’s not really germane to this bill. And you’re just trying to take advantage of the reconciliation rule. And so that’s why the $1.5 trillion is the stuff the parliamentarian would not allow the Democrats to put on the $3.5 trillion bill. The Republicans literally gave the Democrats everything.
Leahy: They gave them everything. Let me see if you can fill in the blank. Here we go. Remember the match game with Gene Rayburn? Maybe you remember that. I’m going to say a word and then see if you can fill it.
Give us the right word here. Historians once described the United States Senate as the most deliberative body in the world. Today, after this debacle on these caves by the Republicans, fill in the blank. The United States Senate is the most “blank” body in the world.
McCabe: Absurd. (Laughter)
Leahy: Absurd! There’s our match game theme. Thank you, Scooter. That’s pretty good. The match is absurd. The most absurd body in the world. Neil McCabe, very good. Thanks for joining us today.
McCabe: My time’s out? I got to go.
Leahy: Your time is up. We still have a minute. Do you have a match game for me, Neil?
McCabe: I just want to tell you that the rule is the Senate either operates by consensus or exhaustion. What you saw today was exhaustion. And then people just said, screw it. I want to go home.
Leahy: There you go. We will remember the match game answer. That is quite good. The most absurd body in the world. The United States Senate per Neil McCabe, our Washington Correspondent for The Star News Network.
McCabe: Thanks, Mike.
Leahy: (Laughs) Thanks so much.
Listen to the full third hour here:
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