McConnell threatens GOP will block defense budget and anti-inflation legislation

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Sen. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans continue efforts to block President Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

For months, Senate Republicans have been doing everything possible to stop President Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda. Now they are threatening to block bipartisan bills aimed at protecting the supply chain and funding the nation's defense if they don't get their way.

The Washington Post reported on June 27 that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) were deep in negotiations on a possible compromise budget reconciliation bill that would make it possible for the Democratic majority to address climate change, lower prescription drug costs, and raise taxes for the richest Americans without a single Republican vote.

On June 30, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that his party would retaliate if an agreement were reached.

McConnell (R-KY) tweeted a threat to the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA), a bipartisan effort to help the nation's semiconductor industry and other businesses compete with China and to curb inflation by strengthening America's supply chain.

The Senate version of USICA passed on June 8, 2021, on a 68-32 vote, and the House-Senate Conference Committee on Bipartisan Innovation and Competition Legislation is working to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions.

"Let me be perfectly clear: there will be no bipartisan USICA as long as Democrats are pursuing a partisan reconciliation bill," the McConnell tweeted on June 30.

Politico reported on July 11 that McConnell's caucus is standing behind his threat to hold up the legislation.

"USICA is a national security imperative," Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told the outlet. "I interpreted that as Sen. McConnell's firm indication that he wants us to deal with that and not a partisan reconciliation bill."

In a July 11 floor speech, McConnell suggested that he and his caucus might obstruct additional legislation in retaliation for any Build Back Better package:

Our side cannot agree to frantically steamroll through delicate bipartisan talks in order to meet an artificial timeline so our Democratic colleagues can clear the decks to ram through a party-line tax hike.

 

A business owner couldn’t bargain in good faith with a customer who’d already announced he plans to rob the store. We can't negotiate the finer points of nuanced economic policies in a bipartisan way … only for Democrats to immediately turn around and redesign the entire economy along pure party lines. Of course that can't work.

 

And what about the other governing priorities that Democrats are neglecting?

 

What about the National Defense Authorization Act? The House is advancing their version of this important legislation this week. Will Senate Democrats neglect the NDAA like they did last year? That would say a lot about their actual resolve to compete with China.

 

[...]

 

Now is a terrible time for Democrats to paralyze the Senate by trying to tax us into recession on a partisan basis.

The National Defense Authorization Act, which establishes the budget and operating rules for the nation's military, is considered a "must-pass" bill each year, meaning that it is of vital importance to the running of the government.

Manchin and Schumer have been attempting to finalize an agreement on a scaled-down version of the Build Back Better spending plan. They have reportedly agreed on major provisions to increase taxes for those earning more than $400,000 annually and to reduce the cost of prescription drugs, both key promises made by Biden during the 2020 presidential campaign.

Manchin told reporters on July 11 that he would not be swayed by McConnell's "so wrong" threats, saying, "I'm not walking away if anybody's gonna threaten me or hold me hostage, if I can help the country. And if they want to play politics and play party politics, shame on 'em."

The Senate Republican caucus has openly spent much of the past 16 months wasting time and running out of as much of the clock on the current Congress as possible. On one occasion, Republicans forced Senate staffers to read the American Rescue Plan's text aloud for over 600 minutes. In the previous Congress, they used their majority to block hundreds of bills that had passed in the House from getting a vote.

On Tuesday, Politico reporter Burgess Everett tweeted that White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates had blasted McConnell's latest obstruction, saying, "Senator McConnell is so desperate to block the President's anti-inflation plan for middle class families ... that he is threatening to kill a bipartisan China competitiveness bill."

"President Biden pledged not to raise taxes on any Americans earning under $400,000, and his plan honors that promise. Instead of spreading weak falsehoods and offering China a windfall at our expense," Bates said. "McConnell should work with us against the global challenge of inflation."

Democrats could find ways to maneuver around McConnell.

Under the rules of the Senate, the Democratic majority could pass the Build Back Better package and add other spending items to it with just a simple majority. Democrats are also reportedly considering simply adopting the version of the United States Innovation and Competition Act that has already passed in the Senate instead of the reconciliation package, which would allow them to circumvent McConnell's threats entirely.

But Senate Democrats will have to get their narrow majority healthy: Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont is currently recovering from hip surgery, and both Schumer and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are out with COVID-19.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.