Amid an unprecedented crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border that Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, says amounts to "uncharted waters" for our border and homeland security apparatus, it seems like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has a slightly different idea of what constitutes a present top legislative priority.
Rather, make that a very different idea of what constitutes a present top legislative priority.
McConnell seems intent on firing up all the Republican Party's legislative gears toward the pressing end of ... wait for it ... drumroll, please ... raising the national tobacco age.
Yes, really. Politico reports:
Mitch McConnell will introduce legislation to raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, calling it a "top priority" when the Senate returns from recess in late April.
The Senate majority leader’s move comes one day after he announced his reelection campaign and shows the changing politics of tobacco. While tobacco has long been a key industry in his home state of Kentucky, McConnell said he wants to change the law to discourage vaping and teenage nicotine addiction and improve Kentucky’s public health.
"Their vaping products … these young people may not know what chemicals they are putting in their bodies," McConnell said in Louisville, Ky. "Far too often, 18-year-olds in high school can legally buy vaping devices and share them with their classmates." ...
"I hope and expect this legislation to get strong bipartisan support in the Senate. As you know, I’m in a particularly good position to enact legislation and this will be a top priority[.]"
It is perhaps difficult to conjure up a less pressing issue for the Republican Party's Senate leader to dub as a "top priority." Bogus asylum-centric migrant influxes are presently wreaking havoc all across our beleaguered southern border, transnational gangs in many of the nation's largest cities effectively complete the chemical warfare-inducing villainy of the Mexico-centric transnational drug cartels, the judicial branch's institutional self-aggrandizement runs amok in increasingly brazen fashion, and entitlement program-driven spending brings us closer every single day to a tipping point in our reckless profligacy and ceaseless debt accumulation.
But apparently Mitch McConnell thinks that raising the tobacco age from 18 to 21 is more pressing. It is difficult to make this up.
McConnell's highlighting such an unusual legislative "top priority" comes amid Senate Republicans' increasing attention to raising money to try to keep their Senate majority after the 2020 election. Politico reported earlier this week:
Senate Republicans — faced with a much tougher map than two years ago and an unpredictable political environment in a presidential year with Donald Trump at the top of their ticket — are stockpiling cash early to guard against losing their majority next year.
While the GOP is mostly on defense, the playing field is significantly narrower than it has been in previous cycles. Republicans are defending 22 seats, compared to just 12 for Democrats. But only two GOP seats are in states Trump lost in the last presidential election, and only a half-dozen GOP senators appear vulnerable at the outset of the cycle. Democrats need to net at least three seats to retake the majority — four if they lose the presidency again — leaving them clear paths to retake the chamber but little margin for error.
Every Senate Republican incumbent in a battleground race raised more than $1 million in the first quarter of the year, a benchmark number puts them in strong position at the outset of the cycle. Five incumbents up for reelection — Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — topped $2 million in the first quarter.