If there were a Hall of Fame for political hypocrisy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be a first-ballot inductee. The Kentucky Republican has condemned obstructionism after mastering the fine art of obstructionism; he’s stressed the virtues of bipartisanship after becoming the most partisan congressional leader in modern history; he’s demanded that senators treat Supreme Court nominees fairly after spearheading an unprecedented blockage against a qualified, compromise Supreme Court nominee.
And this morning, according to a Congressional Quarterly transcript, McConnell stood on the floor of the Senate and condemned a productive House Democratic majority for taking “a one-year vacation.”
“Look, I think it’s pretty clear our Democratic colleagues do not have a great affinity for President Trump, but the country cannot afford for Democrats in Congress to take a one-year vacation from any productive legislation just because they’d rather obsess over impeachment.”
Donald Trump, who’s deeply invested in labeling the opposition party “Do-Nothing Democrats,” was delighted with the comments, though those who take reality seriously should be far less impressed.
Last week, for example, the Democratic House majority passed another election-security bill, the second legislative effort on the issue to pass the lower chamber this year. It was the latest in a series of examples of the House advancing legislative priorities, despite the ongoing investigations into Trump’s many scandals.
Indeed, as regular readers know, in every Congress, the House majority leadership, regardless of which party is in control, sets aside the first 10 available bill numbers. It’s intended as a symbolic way to signal a party’s top legislative priorities: H.R. 1 through H.R. 10 will reflect the leadership’s most important goals.
So far this year, the House Democratic majority has passed its democracy-reform package (H.R. 1), the Equality Act to expand civil rights to LGBTQ Americans (H.R. 5), the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), the Paycheck Fairness Act to address pay disparities between men and women (H.R. 7), a bill to expand background checks on gun purchases (H.R. 8), and a bill to address the climate crisis (H.R. 9).
House Dems have also passed bills to lower prescription drug costs, expand the Violence Against Women Act, and expand the Dream Act for young immigrants.
And then there’s McConnell’s GOP-led Senate.
I’m reminded anew of an observation David Bernstein raised in the spring, when he asked why the Senate doesn’t bother to legislate.
Barring something unexpected, this Tuesday will mark two months since the U.S. Senate held a roll call vote on passage of any type of legislation. That was a joint resolution to nullify President Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the Mexican border (which Trump later vetoed).
It’s been three months, as of Sunday, since the Senate last took yeas and nays on a genuine, full-fledged bill…. The United States Senate, that great deliberative body, has effectively ceased legislating this year. It has shut down. Closed for business until 2021.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) complained over the summer that McConnell had “effectively turned the United States Senate into a very expensive lunch club that occasionally votes on a judge or two.”
The same week, Politico ran a piece describing the upper chamber as a legislative “graveyard,” adding, “The Senate standstill is frustrating even some in the GOP.”
It’s against this backdrop that Mitch McConnell, reading from a prepared text with a straight face, wants to talk about House Democrats taking “a one-year vacation from any productive legislation.”
There’s hypocrisy and then there’s you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me hypocrisy.