McConnell is blocking 400 bills Americans want — but he's rushing a Supreme Court pick


McConnell has blocked everything from legislation to help unemployed workers to a bipartisan background check bill for gun sales.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made pushing through Donald Trump's judicial nominees almost his singular focus of the past two years, confirming Trump's court picks at a rapid clip while blocking a slew of bills the Democratic-controlled House has passed.

Now, less than six weeks before the presidential election, McConnell has vowed to ram through a Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — prioritizing filling the seat over helping Americans struggling to find work in the midst of the coronavirus-fueled economic depression.

Back in February 2016, when conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, McConnell refused to give President Barack Obama's nominee Judge Merrick Garland a hearing, let alone a vote on the Senate floor. McConnell said a justice should not be confirmed in an election year, and that the next president should get to pick the nominee.

In 2020, McConnell has abandoned that policy, now vowing to confirm Trump's pick by a vote of senators whom voters may have rejected at the ballot box by the time they take a vote, possibly in a lame-duck session.

That about-face is consistent with McConnell's quest to stack the courts with Trump picks that could block progressive policies for years to come rather than passing legislation that could help his constituents now.

In fact, McConnell has proudly called himself the "grim reaper" of the Senate.

"As long as I'm Majority Leader of the Senate, I get to set the agenda, that's why I call myself the Grim Reaper," McConnell told Fox News' Sean Hannity last year.

Here are the pressing issues and bills passed by the House McConnell has refused to put to a vote.

Coronavirus aid

McConnell dragged his feet on passing any aid for laid-off workers struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic, nor would he help the cities and states facing massive budget shortfalls due to lost revenue.

House Democrats passed a bill on May 15 to extend a $600 weekly unemployment insurance payment to laid-off workers and provide another round of direct $1,200 payments to Americans under a certain income threshold.

McConnell refused to even negotiate on that bill until a week before the $600 weekly payment was set to lapse, ultimately letting it expire — even as millions of Americans remained out of work.

It wasn't until mid-September, months after the unemployment payments expired, that Senate Republicans put a virus relief bill up for a vote — one that slashed weekly unemployment payments, did not include a new round of direct payments, and gave no aid to cities and states. The bill also gutted protections for workers.

The GOP bill didn't pass.

Now McConnell will prioritize a Supreme Court battle over continuing to negotiate on virus relief.

H.R.1, For the People Act

One of the first major bills House Democrats passed when their newly elected majority was sworn in in January 2019 was the For the People Act, a sweeping bill that "addresses voter access, election integrity, election security, political spending, and ethics for the three branches of government," according to a summary of the legislation.

Among other things, it would block voter roll purges and would force candidates for president and vice president to release 10 years' worth of tax returns.

But the legislation was dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate, with McConnell calling the legislation that makes it easier to vote and makes elections more secure a "terrible proposal."

H.R.5, Equality Act

In May 2019, the Democratic-controlled House passed a historic bill that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, expanding legal protections against discrimination to LGBTQ people in the United States.

The bill also mandated that religious beliefs cannot be used as a shield for such discrimination.

McConnell has not taken that bill up or allowed a vote on it, even though a poll taken a month after the bill passed showed that a majority of Americans thought a new law was needed to "reduce discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."

H.R.6, American Dream and Promise Act

House Democrats passed a bill that would prohibit the removal of so-called Dreamers, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as minors, as well as give them a path to citizenship.

But McConnell never put that bill up for a vote, leaving the Dreamers in limbo as Trump continues to try to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which could lead to the deportation of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.

Letting that class of immigrants remain in the United States is broadly popular. A poll in June found that 74% of Americans believe Dreamers should have the ability to receive permanent legal status in the United States.

H.R.7, Paycheck Fairness Act

In March 2019, the House passed a bipartisan bill to end pay discrimination on the basis of sex.

McConnell has not put it up for a vote in the Senate.

H.R.8, Bipartisan Background Checks Act

In February 2019, the House passed a bill that mandates universal background checks for gun sales — the first time the House had passed a gun safety bill in 25 years.

Expanding background checks for gun sales has almost universal support in the United States.

Yet McConnell refused to take up the bill or put it up for a vote.

H.R.9, Climate Action Now Act

The House passed a bill in May 2019 that required Trump to "develop and update annually a plan for the United States to meet its nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement on climate change," according to a summary of the legislation.

The bill would force Trump back into the Paris climate agreement, from which he has withdrawn the United States.

McConnell never put it up for a vote.

H.R.1585, Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act

The Violence Against Women Act — the landmark 1994 law to protect victims of domestic violence and abuse and created the National Domestic Violence Hotline and other programs — has to be reauthorized every few years.

The act expired on Dec. 21, 2018, after the GOP-controlled House and Senate failed to renew it.

In April 2019, after Democrats won control of the House, it passed a renewal that added new provisions, including banning those with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from buying guns.

However, McConnell has refused to put reauthorization up for a vote, meaning the law has been expired for nearly two years.

H.R.582, Raise the Wage Act

In July 2019, the House passed a bill that would increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, more than doubling its current rate of $7.25.

McConnell never put it up for a vote.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.