After blocking hundreds of pieces of legislation, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is demanding Democrats let him continue his 'Grim Reaper' act.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) lost his position as Senate majority leader on Wednesday, but he and his Republican minority caucus still want to be able to obstruct every bit of progressive legislation as they have for the past few years.
Vice President Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate and its tie-breaker, gives Democrats a 51-50 majority in the chamber. Democrats reportedly offered a bipartisan power-sharing agreement this week that would give Republicans an equal number of seats on committees, but McConnell rejected it over a demand that the new majority agree to preserve a rule requiring a 60-vote supermajority to end debate on nearly all legislation.
If a simple majority of senators votes to change those rules, they could do so. Republicans hope to get Democrats to agree now that they will not alter that threshold, no matter how many bills they block. They suggested that Democrats might get too upset later when Republicans filibuster top legislative priorities.
"I believe the time is ripe to address this issue head on before the passions of one particular issue or another arise," McConnell argued in a letter to his caucus.
"You want to do it before there’s an emotional, difficult, controversial issue. So that it isn't issue-driven, it’s institution-driven," Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told Politico.
Both senators took the opposite view in 2017, when they and every other Republican voted to lower the threshold for Supreme Court confirmations from 60 votes to 51.
Over the past two years, then-Majority Leader McConnell blocked hundreds of pieces of House-passed legislation.
"They've been on full left-wing parade over there, trotting out all of their left-wing solutions that are going to be issues in the fall campaign," he said last February of the Democratic-run House of Representatives. "We're not gonna pass those."
McConnell refused to even allow votes on voting rights, infrastructure, prescription drug costs, LGBTQ equality, protections for "Dreamers," climate action, raising the minimum wage, or the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization.
He explicitly vowed that if he kept his majority in the 2020 elections, he would be the "Grim Reaper" who would kill all progressive legislation.
Instead, the American people gave Democrats control of the White House, House of Representatives, and Senate. After Democrats Jon Ossoff (GA), Alex Padilla (CA), and Raphael Warnock (GA) were sworn in on Wednesday afternoon, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) became majority leader and promised to "do business differently."
"This Senate will legislate," he told colleagues. "It will be active, responsive, energetic, and bold."
Republicans are already scheming to use the filibuster and obstruction tactics to stop President Joe Biden and the congressional Democratic majorities from enacting the policies they ran on and the voters embraced.
On Tuesday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) announced that he will block speedy confirmation for Biden's pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. Weeks earlier, Hawley made it clear that he and his party planned to obstruct Biden's agenda as payback for Democrats being mean to Donald Trump.
"Democrats deprived President Trump of a working government for four years," he falsely claimed in late November. "I can't imagine that a Republican Senate would immediately turn around and say that I'm just gonna roll over and give a President Biden — if that's who should become president — give him whatever he wants. So I'd say if I'm them, I suit up, because I think it's going to be a tough fight."
While Democrats are not yet changing the filibuster rules, several said this week that they see no reason to let McConnell and his minority take away that possibility.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (R-CT) told Politico that doing so "would be exactly the wrong way to begin," as Democrats "need to have the kind of position of strength that will enable us to get stuff done."
"Chuck Schumer is the majority leader and he should be treated like majority leader. We can get shit done around here and we ought to be focused on getting stuff done," Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) said. "If we don't, the inmates are going to be running this ship."
And Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) told the outlet that this was "exactly the opposite of the conversation that we should be having today."
He blasted the GOP's "political hostage-taking" as "an indication of how Machiavellian politics around here have become."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.