On the day that fair-weather patriotism was redefined, we all looked on at the Republican leadership, mouths collectively agape, too flabbergasted to respond.
I should (dear readers!) be hard at work on my end-of-semester grading. But when this piece from Talking Points Memo came across my Reader feed this morning, it stopped me dead in my tracks. Apparently — and you can’t make this stuff up — filibuster reform with a simple fifty-one vote majority is a bridge too far for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Self Interested). Brimming over with noises of sincerest outrage, McConnell responded to Democrat Harry Reid’s plan to reform the Senate rules on the opening day of the next session with the following:
That was appropriately labeled by the other side a few years ago when we were thinking of doing something similar, the ‘nuclear option.’ I think it would be bad for the institution, bad for the country.
Translation: when the elephants wanted to change the Senate rules by a simple majority vote, the donkeys brayed loudly. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, we want to prove that we’re asses too.
That kind of hypocrisy is just par for the course. Among both major political parties, really. What got me about this particular McConnell pronouncement is that suddenly, for the first time since 2008, our man Mitch is worried about what’s good for the institution of the Senate, and for the United States as a whole.
Last week, last month, every hour that the Senate has been in session since Barack Obama was elected the first time, Mitch McConnell’s mission has been at cross purposes with the good of the institution, and at odds with any kind of patriotic sentiment. McConnell’s tenure as Minority Leader seems to have consisted of an extended temper tantrum brought about by the fact that he is not Majority Leader, and by the fact that his person — whoever — is not in the White House.
The 111th and 112th congresses, both guided gently by McConnell’s manicured hand, have seen record numbers of filibusters and secret holds. They have passed fewer pieces of legislation than any congress in recent memory — fewer than Harry Truman’s 1948 “do-nothing” congress. And thanks to McConnell’s Senate Republicans, judicial confirmations have hit a record low. There are now eighty-three empty Federal judgeships, leading to unreasonably high caseloads in Federal courts, and to disturbing delays in timely justice.
But more than that — more than any of this — are McConnell’s own damning (and by now, well-known) words to the National Journal, soon after President Obama was elected: the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.
That is the tenor of Mitch McConnell’s concern for the good of the country. It is a concern that publicly purports to extend exactly as far as the borders of the Republican Party, but that — if one were to look closely — is even narrower. Mitch McConnell’s concern for the country, in reality, extends no farther than the boundaries of Mitch McConnell himself.
And I should hope, as you all listen to the Senate Minority Leader wax patriotic in the face of filibuster reform, that you keep that fact well in mind.