With Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) poised to stymie as much as of President-elect Donald Trump’s agenda as possible, one of the most important members to help Trump will be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell will have to use every resource at his disposal to corral his thin majority and get Trump’s agenda through the Senate. But can McConnell be trusted to be an effective leader and defeat Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer?
Here are five things you need to know about McConnell.
1. His first name isn’t actually Mitch. According to PBS, McConnell’s full name is Addison Mitchell McConnell, Jr. Apparently. he goes by Mitch.
2. McConnell has a 40 percent liberty score at Conservative Review. His lack of conservative conviction is even worse than the score indicates. Conservative Review‘s biography of McConnell points out how he plays a clever game with his votes:
While quietly voting with conservatives throughout his career on issues related to life, guns (although he has taken a number of bad votes), and most tax issues, McConnell has failed to lead for conservatives on most critical issues during his time in leadership. In the few instances where he has publicly or privately spearheaded an initiative, it was for some of the most unpopular causes with conservatives, such as the Wall Street bailout, fiscal cliff tax increases, and debt ceiling increases.
Even in instances where McConnell ultimately voted the right way, he has never used his leadership position to spearhead a battle and whip the Republican conference against bad priorities, such as amnesty, the war in Syria, and large spending bills. The only time McConnell has significantly led a fight for conservatives was when he fought the Democrats and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on McCain-Feingold and other efforts to limit free speech. In recent years, he has taken a more vocal role in fighting against Obama’s war on coal, which dramatically affects his home state.
That has been typical of McConnell throughout his career: he has never been effective in leading opposition efforts toward the Democrats, as demonstrated below.
3. McConnell was one of the key figures in recruiting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to the Gang of Eight. Publicly, McConnell voiced mealy-mouthed concerns about the bill and ultimately voted against it, but behind the scenes it appears that he was hoping for the effort to succeed.
According to the Washington Post, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had first tried to bring Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) aboard, to no avail. When that failed, “McConnell suggested Rubio.” That small mention in the Post‘s piece reveals a lot, because the implication is that McConnell was aiding the Gang of Eight efforts behind the scenes to get a Tea Party senator to support the bill. McConnell also never blocked the bill from getting a vote, so even though he voted against it, he aided its passage. Not only was this a sleazy way to appear conservative as he was running for re-election, McConnell suggesting Rubio all but quashed the Florida senator’s chances at the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, as Gang of Eight was an albatross around Rubio’s neck throughout the primary.
This is emblematic of what McConnell has done throughout his tenure in Washington.
4. McConnell works to undermine conservatives and surrender to the Democrats. As I noted in Townhall in 2015:
When McConnell isn’t bashing conservatives like Ted Cruz, he touts the Senate’s ability to pass amendments- as if that’s some sort of major accomplishment. How does that resonate with the American people?
Recently, McConnell blocked amendments that would have defunded Planned Parenthood and implemented Kate’s Law in cracking down on sanctuary cities using the “filling the tree” process of crowding out amendments that he didn’t like- the same tactic that former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used against Republicans.
However, McConnell didn’t block an amendment reauthorizing the Export-Import bank, a source of crony capitalism for corporations like Boeing and GE. This is why Cruz bravely stood up to McConnell on Friday. As a result, McConnell fast-tracked a stand alone bill to defund Planned Parenthood, which was meaningless because Democrats could kill it with a filibuster, which they wouldn’t have been able to do if McConnell had allowed it as an amendment.
In May, McConnell did something similar by stonewalling Lee’s amendment to defend the Obama administration’s Affirmative Further Fair Housing regulation, as a means of redistributing “crime from the inner cities to suburban neighborhoods,” as the Daily Wire explains here. Instead of allowing Lee’s amendment to go through, McConnell had Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) put forth an amendment that claimed to accomplish what Lee’s did–except that “it was crafted carefully to only prohibit HUD from actually redrawing zoning maps, something they have never done,” according to Daniel Horowitz.
“This has been the hallmark of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) Senate over the past two years,” Horowitz wrote at Conservative Review. “Whereas a majority party in the Senate is supposed to embarrass their opponents with tough amendments in order to win back the White House and a 60-seat majority in the chamber, McConnell’s Republicans have been blocking conservative amendments. They even shield Democrats from any exposure to tough votes.”
McConnell has also been quick to rule out government shutdowns, which is not smart because it immediately gives congressional Republicans no leverage over Democrats.
But one of the few times McConnell shows a spine is when he goes to war with conservatives. In 2014, he declared that “we are going to crush them [conservatives] everywhere,” and the Washington Post detailed how McConnell and his establishment cronies successfully defeated Tea Party insurgents in several Senate races, as McConnell only wants senators who will keep him in power.
With all this in mind, the most pressing question facing the Trump presidency becomes…
5. Will McConnell use the nuclear option to pass through Trump’s Supreme Court appointment? Schumer will likely filibuster any originalist appointment that Trump makes, and McConnell can nullify Schumer’s efforts if he invokes the nuclear option to remove the filibuster for Trump’s nominee. But McConnell’s team refused to tell the Daily Wire‘s Pardes Seleh if they would invoke the nuclear option.
McConnell has held on the line on stonewalling Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, but given his record of selling out to the Democrats, it’s hard to have any faith in McConnell using the nuclear option to bypass Schumer.