Attempting to dodge a question about the fate of Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a clear window into his strategic approach for the next four years. And that strategy can be summed up in two words: Relentless opposition.
Here’s McConnell (bolding is mine):
“One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration. I think the best way of looking at what this new administration is the President may have won the nomination, but Bernie Sanders won the argument about what the new administration should be like. We are confronted with severe challenges from the new administration and a narrow majority in the House and a 50-50 Senate to turn American into a socialist country, and that’s 100% of my focus.”
Those comments did two things:
1. Reminded people that McConnell had said this back in October 2010: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
2. Enraged Democrats, who pointed to the McConnell remark as proof-positive that Republicans will never bargain in good faith with President Joe Biden – no matter how much outreach he does with them or how many concessions he is willing to make to bring about compromise.
Which, well, duh?
As that 2010 quote reveals – and his entire time as a leader of Senate Republicans affirms – McConnell’s current stance on the Biden administration is exactly the same approach he has taken to past Democratic presidents (and politicians more broadly).
McConnell has always been an unapologetic political warrior – using his perch atop the Senate Republican heap to best position his party for maximum gains in every two-year election cycle. He spent decades fighting against any sort of campaign finance reform. He mastered the arcana of Senate procedure in order to block legislation he didn’t want to see the light of day. He described his refusal to hold hearings for Merrick Garland’s nomination to replace the late Antonin Scalia as “the most consequential thing I’ve ever done” in a 2019 New York Times profile.
(In that same profile, McConnell was quoted saying this: “If there’s any power in this job, really … it’s the power to schedule, to decide what you’re going to do or not do.”)
See, opposition is in McConnell’s blood. It’s his MO. It’s what he does. This excerpt from the 2020 Almanac of American Politics speaks to that reality:
“He remains identified more with his ability to erect procedural hurdles during the administration of President Barack Obama – whom McConnell once described as ‘the most left-wing president since Woodrow Wilson’ – than his record of enacting major legislation since his party regained the White House with the election of President Donald Trump.”
That anyone is surprised or outraged by McConnell’s latest pledge of opposition suggests that a) people have very short memories or b) they haven’t been paying attention.
McConnell has long believed the full-scale (and united) opposition to Democratic policies and principles – and ensuring that GOP base voters know that he and his Senate colleagues are the only thing keeping the dam of liberals from drowning them – as the most simple and effective strategy to win. And that’s the thing that drives McConnell: Winning.
Given that, Biden’s willingness to give McConnell a pass is intriguing.
“Look, he said that in our last administration, (with former President) Barack (Obama, that) he was going to stop everything – and I was able to get a lot done with him,” Biden said Wednesday in response to McConnell’s comments.
Which, well, true enough. Biden as VP was able to cut several budget deals with McConnell over the course of the Obama years, deals that often kept the country from tipping into possible fiscal doom.
But those deals were often panned by liberal Democrats, who believed Biden had given far too much away to McConnell because of his overarching desire to find some sort of compromise. And with four years of Donald Trump in the White House – and the ex-president still refusing to concede his 2020 election loss – in McConnell’s memory, the bar for deal-making with Democrats could well be impossibly high.
Which, again, shouldn’t surprise you. This is who McConnell is. This is what he does. Always has been, always will be.