As just about everyone expected from the moment the election was over way back in November, the very thin GOP majority in the Senate together with the fact that a lot of our Senators are establishment wimps if not outright turncoats meant that if our agenda was going to bog down anywhere, it would be in the Senate. So far the roadblocks thrown up in the House have been fairly easily overcome because the obstacles there are more often the Freedom Caucus types, who actually are interested in working with the President and moving things along, and just don’t want to do a halfbaked job of it. In the Senate, that’s not so much the case.
And yet…things are actually moving there. Nominees for critical positions are being confirmed, slowly but surely. What’s more is that unlike six of the past eight years where Harry the Hatchet Man took bills from the House out behind the shed and quietly buried them, and the remaining two years where the Republicans cowered behind the excuse that “we don’t want to upset the voters going into 2016 by being all partisan and stuff,” pushes for votes are actually resulting in votes taking place. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used to not even try to get things voted on and put himself and his colleagues on record for aye or nay. Sure, there were the show votes about repealing the Unaffordable Don’t-Care Act, but everyone knew those weren’t going anywhere and were safe to throw out to the GOP base like red meat. But on other matters where there’d be a fight, most often McConnell held his fire. I and many other conservatives have been very critical of Mitch in the past, mocking his timid appearance (some even nicknaming him the “turtle”) and denouncing him as a part of the “surrender caucus” with John Boehner.
I don’t know where or why it happened, but I have to say there has been a change in Senator McConnell lately. I think we saw the first signs back when the great Justice Scalia passed away and Whatshisname tried to nominate Merrick Garland to take his place. Everyone expected Mitch to hem and haw for a few days and then give in like we’re used to the Republicans doing lately…but he didn’t. He refused to allow Garland’s appointment to come to the floor for a vote, where inevitably a couple of traitors like Susan Collins or Kelly Ayotte or John McCain would find some reason to “be bipartisan” and vote to confirm, or at the very least the confirmation debates would devolve into free publicity for Dr. Pantsuit and the Democrats. Despite all the wailing from the Democrats about “doing your job,” Mitch stood firm and surprised the hell out of us all.
Since the election, McConnell has not exactly been an attack dog, but the timid “turtle” has been showing he has teeth. Though the process has been slow due to sandbagging Democrats and uncooperative saboteurs in his own party, he managed to shepherd not just the (rabidly hated by the left) entire cabinet through confirmation, but also steered the Senate through getting Justice Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court, pulling the long-dreaded but way-overdue “nuclear option” to do it. Most of us sincerely doubted he’d break that glass but when it came down to it he made it happen. He stuck up for not just the rules of decorum but arguably for Jeff Sessions himself during Sessions’ confirmation, inadvertently and hilariously giving the left one of their most out-of-context battle cries ever (but hey, if you want to “Nevertheless she persisted” in being rude, lying, and claiming the rules don’t apply to you because you’re special, you go right ahead). Mitch is definitely still a pessimist if nothing else, worrying over whether there’s any way he can get to fifty votes on a repeal of the Unaffordable Don’t-Care Act, but the fact remains that it wasn’t long ago that we would not have had a vote on full repeal, or skinny repeal, nevermind both, unless and until every vote was in place. It’s a very good sign and believe it or not a mark of significant progress that we got the turncoats so clearly and unmistakably on record, and we have Senator McConnell to thank for that.
In the wake of the “failure” of both repeal attempts some people are claiming that a failure of the Republican leadership is to blame. I’m not going to say I’m an outright cheerleader for Senator McConnell but I think it’s more than arguable that right now he’s doing everything he can do, which is a welcome departure from the way he used to hide behind John Boehner and forfeit every advantage we managed to win. He can’t make our (“our”) Senators vote a certain way, but he can make them vote, and right now it looks very much like he’s managed to find his spine. Let’s hope he doesn’t lose it.
Better late than never, Senator. Just remember, we’re watching. We’re cheering, we’re hoping, we’ve got your back, but we’re watching.