Column: How Mitch McConnell and the GOP perfected the politics of ‘No!’



Groucho Marx isn’t usually hailed as a political oracle. However you possibly can’t inform me he wasn’t channeling the long run Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in 1932, when he sang:

Your proposition could also be good,
However let’s have one factor understood:
No matter it’s, I’m in opposition to it.
And even once you’ve modified it or condensed it — I’m in opposition to it!

That fairly nicely sums up how the Republican chief of the World’s Best Deliberative Physique has greeted virtually each proposal from the Biden administration.

McConnell hasn’t made a secret of his doctrine.

“100% of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” he stated earlier this month.

That features blocking even proposals which have bipartisan assist, corresponding to one that might set up an unbiased fee to analyze the Capitol riot of Jan. 6.

Such a probe can be a nasty thought, McConnell stated, as a result of it could distract voters from President Biden’s insurance policies, which he says will “flip America right into a socialist nation.”

“We predict the American individuals, going ahead and within the fall of 2022, should concentrate on what this administration is doing,” he stated.

Fall of 2022, not coincidentally, is when the following congressional election will happen. The very last thing McConnell needs is for Biden to have a listing of accomplishments to brag about come election time.

Contemplate one other proposal that has gained bipartisan assist: a police reform invoice to deal with issues uncovered by the dying of George Floyd and different unarmed Black civilians by the hands of police. Biden requested Congress to go a invoice by Tuesday, the anniversary of Floyd’s homicide in Minneapolis. It didn’t occur.

Three Black lawmakers, Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Democratic Rep. Karen Bass of Los Angeles, have been negotiating diligently to draft bipartisan laws for months.

However McConnell and others within the GOP, decided to forged the social gathering because the defender of regulation, order and “blue lives,” have opposed any vital change to “certified immunity,” the judicial normal that makes it extraordinarily tough to sue cops for his or her actions on the job.

After which there’s infrastructure spending, the most important bipartisan precedence on the desk. In these negotiations, too, McConnell and his lieutenants are digging of their heels.

Biden began the bidding with a huge $2.3-trillion proposal that included not solely roads and bridges, but in addition clear power and residential take care of the aged. Senate Republicans responded with a suggestion of $568 billion, lower than half of which was new spending.

To be honest, either side have engaged in shell video games. Biden responded to the GOP provide by slicing half a trillion from his preliminary proposal, however he merely moved among the deletions into one other invoice.

“There’s no goodwill on both facet,” a congressional aide advised me. “There’s a whole and utter lack of belief.”


The largest stumbling block isn’t the general quantity, however pay for all that spending. Biden needs to lift taxes on firms and anybody making greater than $400,000 a yr; McConnell and different Republicans have dismissed that as unthinkable.

One mildly promising signal emerged on Tuesday: A bipartisan group of moderates together with maverick Democrat Joe Manchin III of West Virginia stated they have been working towards a brand new compromise. However they’re appearing with out McConnell’s assist, which is able to make it tough for them to draw the 10 Republicans wanted to succeed in the Senate’s 60-vote requirement.

It’s not stunning that negotiations on formidable laws can be powerful; they’re presupposed to be. The issue is that just one social gathering is behaving as if it needs to go something in any respect.

McConnell, in distinction, is rooting brazenly for Biden and the Democrats to fail. He’s revived the playbook he used in opposition to then-President Obama, when he noticed obstructionism as a option to flip voters in opposition to the administration and towards the GOP.

From the standpoint of pure politics, that’s rational conduct. It helped Republicans win a majority within the Home of Representatives in 2010 and within the Senate in 2014.

As Princeton political scholar Frances Lee has identified, when management of Congress is at stake, a minority social gathering’s self-interest impels it to dam the bulk from reaching any success.

“Competitors fuels social gathering battle by elevating the political stakes of each coverage dispute,” she wrote. “How can a celebration wage an efficient marketing campaign after … collaborating with its opposition?”

In addition to, at a time when Republicans are divided over the legacy of former President Trump and the way forward for conservatism, McConnell wants a option to maintain them collectively. It’s not at all times clear what Republicans stand for lately, apart from low taxes.

However at the least they know what they’re in opposition to: Biden’s big-spending agenda.

As Professor Groucho stated — or, fairly, sang: “It doesn’t matter what it’s or who commenced it, I’m in opposition to it.”


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