Should Republicans turn against Mitch McConnell? | The Tylt
Should Republicans turn against Mitch McConnell?
Lindsey Graham appeared on "Meet the Press" days after the midterm elections and broke from his party leader, calling in no uncertain terms for McConnell to reverse his current position and allow the Senate to vote on a criminal justice reform bill. Graham said the bill had bipartisan support and was being held up only by the leader's intransigence. Per The Hill:
Graham said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he's confident a criminal justice reform bill that President Trump has backed would receive 80 votes in the Senate, and would be a positive first step for the government in the wake of a contentious midterm election cycle.
"Let’s start 2019 on a positive note," Graham said. "I’m urging Sen. McConnell to bring the bill to the floor of the Senate. It would get 80 votes. Mr. President, pick up the phone and push the Republican leadership."
"The Republicans are the problem here, not the Democrats," he added.
According to the Washington Post, many Republicans believe McConnell is purposely underestimating the support the bill has.
[S]ome Republicans said McConnell is lowballing support for the legislation and creating his own unofficial rule that the bill needs a supermajority of GOP support.
Scott said that supporters need at least 30 of the 51 Republicans to force McConnell’s hand. “At some point we’ll hit the tipping point where we believe the leader will be willing to put it on the calendar,” he said.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who has worked with Durbin for years on the bill, said he already has a majority of Republicans ready to vote yes. “I have personally counted 26 Republicans, 26 Republicans who have said, ‘I will vote for this bill,’ if you put it on the floor right now,” he said at the Post Live event.
And Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the departing chairman of the Judiciary Committee and a supporter of the bill, is upset his heavy lift on judicial nominations is not being rewarded with a floor vote on the criminal justice proposal. Grassley wants passage of his highest priority, but McConnell still prioritizes the confirmation of even more judges.
Yet what some people call a lack of courage in leadership could actually be a savvy attempt to maintain unity within his party. Per the Atlantic:
“That’s his calling card, protecting his conference,” said Kevin Ring, the president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums and a leading reform advocate who spent more than a year in federal prison for his role in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. While past majority leaders like Lyndon Johnson might have strong-armed their members, McConnell waits for near-unanimity among Senate Republicans. “I think he’s not just looking for 60 votes,” said Brett Tolman, the former top federal prosecutor in Utah who also worked as a GOP Senate staffer and now advocates for criminal-justice reform. “He’s looking for a majority of Republicans.” That seemed more likely as Senator Ted Cruz, a former skeptic of the bill, came out in favor of it Friday afternoon after the sponsors accepted his minor amendments; his support could lead more conservative Republicans to join him.
Above all, Ring said in an interview last week, McConnell wants to avoid GOP infighting and protect his senators in their reelection fights. There’s the specter of anti-reform senators like Tom Cotton of Arkansas calling other Republicans “soft on crime,” despite endorsements from Trump and law-enforcement organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police. Cotton charges that if the bill becomes law, “thousands of federal offenders, including violent felons and sex offenders, will be released earlier than they would be under current law.” Supporters say that Cotton is misleading the public by ignoring the required risk assessment that would screen out high-risk inmates, even if the law does not exclude their crimes specifically.
Then there’s the possibility of GOP primary challengers attacking incumbents. Lukewarm senators might be asking McConnell to spare them the vote, Ring said. “For every Republican senator who’s saying, ‘I have problems with this,’ my sense is that there’s another one saying to McConnell, ‘I’d rather not have to vote on this.’”
McConnell shows no indication he is considering leaving his position. Per Politico:
Unlike outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), McConnell is not a visionary ideological leader intent on bending the Congress to his will. Instead, McConnell relies on grinding out results to keep his party moving forward: confirmations of nominees, spending deals and political meddling in individual Senate races aimed at keeping Republicans in power.
He’ll work out nomination deals with Schumer that get little attention but achieve far more than keeping the Senate in session continuously just to steamroll Democrats.
“The two best qualities to have in this job is to have a thick hide and to be a good listener, because what I’m always doing is trying to get as much consensus as I can and try to achieve as much as what we can,” McConnell says of his mind-set. “Those who prefer perfection typically are people on the outside who are always thinking, unlike Ronald Reagan, that 80 percent is not enough.”
NBC News reports that while McConnell may not be the most popular, even within his own party, he has a proven track record of succes. He is incredibly experienced and when push comes to shove, his party members still fall in line behind him.
“Nearly every politician in Washington is obsessed with their image and that’s all they focus on. McConnell couldn't care less,” said Steven Law, a former McConnell chief of staff who now runs his associated Senate Leadership Fund. “He’s focused on winning the hard fights that matter, and that’s why he succeeds.”
McConnell’s accomplishments as leader are numerous. He has successfully advanced GOP priorities like tax cuts and deregulation and attempted to maintain unity among a diverse Republican conference while also protecting his most vulnerable members during a difficult campaign year.
However, party members are now openly pushing back against McConnell. Outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake has stated that he will not move forward with any of McConnell's judicial nominees until the leader puts a bill to protect Robert Mueller's investigation on the floor. Per NPR:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is blocking a bipartisan effort to protect special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of the Russia attack on the 2016 presidential election — prompting retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to pledge he will block progress on confirming judicial nominees.
"Why are we so sanguine about this?" Flake said in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday. "Why? Why do we do this, to protect a man who seemingly is so incurious about what Russia did during the 2016 elections. Why do we do that?"
Flake holds the deciding vote on a narrowly divided Senate Judiciary Committee, which means he could block forward movement on Republican-nominated judicial picks at the committee level for the rest of the year. There are currently 21 judicial nominees awaiting a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee.