Good news, America, the United States Senate, after years of exasperating impairment, is finally a healthy, functioning institution – according to the man whose job it is to lead it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sat down with Charlie Rose this week and made a boast that was literally unbelievable.
MCCONNELL: We have done a lot more than you think we have. And the reason for that is everybody is angry about their own situation in life. They’re blaming the government which is understandable. But there is no dysfunction in the Senate anymore. And I’ve just given you a whole list…ROSE: Because Harry Reid is now the minority leader and you are the majority leader.MCCONNELL: That’s right.
No, it’s not.
Look, I can appreciate why McConnell, who’s arguably done more than anyone in modern history to disrupt how the upper chamber functions, wants the public to see the Senate in a positive light. The state of the institution is obviously a reflection on McConnell’s own leadership, and if voters believe the chamber is governing effectively, perhaps the electorate would be more inclined to leave the Senate in the hands of his Republican majority.
But to declare that Senate dysfunction is a thing of the past is pretty silly.
Consider the judicial confirmation process, for example. McConnell and his GOP brethren have imposed the first-ever blockade on any Supreme Court nominee regardless of merit. Pressed for a defense, the Majority Leader and other Senate Republicans have presented a series of weak talking points burdened by varying degrees of incoherence.
And it’s not just the high court, either: district and appellate court vacancies languish as the GOP majority generally refuses to consider one of its most basic governmental responsibilities.
And it’s not just judges. It took the Senate 11 months to confirm an uncontroversial U.S. Ambassador to Mexico nominee. An uncontroversial Army Secretary nominee faced an unnecessary wait that was nearly as long as part of an unrelated partisan tantrum.
In the meantime, the Senate can’t pass its own bipartisan criminal-justice reform bill, hasn’t passed a budget, is taking its sweet time in addressing the Zika virus threat, still requires supermajorities on practically every vote of any consequence, and is on track to give itself more time off this year than any Senate in six decades.
If McConnell is proud of what the chamber has become, perhaps he’s not paying close enough attention.