Thursday, April 6, 2017

He could have been Master of the Senate: Senator McConnell and the Gorsuch nomination

He could have been Master of the Senate: Senator McConnell and the Gorsuch nomination

Senator Mitch McConnell could have become master of the senate and the most powerful politician in Washington, D.C.  He would have eclipsed President Trump and Speaker Ryan in America’s power structure.  The Majority Leader has probably read Robert Caro’s epic tale of Lyndon Johnson’s dominance in American politics during his days as majority leader (Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson).  However, Senator McConnell doesn’t have the long-term political acumen of LBJ, even though Senator McConnell is one of the best political players of the last several decades.

If the Senator had been channeling President Johnson, he would not have allowed the Senate to vote on suspending the 60-vote requirement for considering Supreme Court nominees.   Instead, he’d have used the 60-vote requirement to cut deals with Democrats and President Trump.  It’s not hard to imagine LBJ’s drawl as he explained to Donald Trump that he’d love to bring Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, but that he needed help in corralling a handful of his Republican and Democratic colleagues.    He’d have gotten the President to offer some financial benefits for Kentucky’s poorest counties or some promises on tax reform.  Then he’d have had drinks with Senator Schumer to find out what the New York Senator might want in exchange for allowing the Gorsuch vote to proceed.  Ultimately, President Trump would get his Supreme Court nominee, Senator Schumer and his Democratic colleagues would get some benefits for their states or some promises on future judicial appointments, and Senate Republicans would get some concessions from the Democrats and the President.

However, Senator McConnell doesn’t know how to channel LBJ.  Instead He’s asked the full Senate to amend its rules and eliminate the 60-vote rule required to bring a Supreme Court nomination to the floor.  Why?  President Johnson craved power as much, if not more than Senator McConnell.  However, LBJ had a purpose for seeking power.  Despite all his shortcomings, LBJ wanted to improve the lives of the poor people of the hill country in Texas as well as millions of other poor folks.  Senator McConnell has never had any vision other than wielding power.  Instead of seeking to negotiate with President Obama and Majority Leader Reid, Senator McConnell simply said no and filibustered almost every proposal and nomination in the years leading up to the Trump administration.  He exercises power for the sake of power alone.

Since Senator McConnell has no passions, ideals, or causes he has squandered the opportunity to decisively shift the balance of power away from the inept Trump administration and a fractured House of Representatives.  Lyndon Johnson will remain the master of the Senate.

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