In a prepared speech this morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who decried filibusters during the Bush/Cheney era, launched a spirited defense of obstructionism, gridlock, and unprecedented procedural abuses that have rendered the upper chamber largely broken. Towards the end of his comments, he echoed a curious metaphor.
“As Senator Alexander noted, no Majority Leader wants written on his tombstone that he presided over the end of the Senate,” McConnell said from the floor. “Well, if this Majority Leader caves to the fringes and let’s this happen, I’m afraid that’s exactly what they’ll write.”
Apparently, the Republican senator and his campaign team found this so compelling that they created a macabre online visual of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) tombstone, labeling him the man who “killed the Senate.” (Thanks to my colleague Will Femia for the heads-up.)
Now, this is ordinarily the point at which some of you tell me I take rhetorical excesses too seriously. Sure, I found this to be in poor taste, but it’s probably fair to say that neither McConnell nor his far-right aides are actually hoping for Reid’s untimely demise. Speculating about what the right will said about the Majority Leader when he’s dead isn’t to be taken too literally.
Fine. I disagree, but I work in cable news, so maybe I shouldn’t let morbid language like this get to me. (Dear political world, think about how this would have gone over in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords assassination attempt.)
But let’s put all of that aside and consider just the substance – McConnell would have the public believe that if the Senate is forced to vote up or down on executive branch nominees, without an opportunity for obstructionism, it would necessarily “kill” the institution.
And that’s hopelessly crazy.
What Reid has suggested was the Senate norm for about two centuries, when filibusters either didn’t exist or were incredibly rare. By returning the institution to the way it used to operate, the majority wouldn’t be killing the Senate, he’d arguably be saving it.
Let’s make this plain. Which does more damage to the Senate: using procedural abuses, unseen in American history, to require mandatory supermajorities on every vote of any consequence, or reforms that restore majority rule to an institution that was designed to be a majority-rule chamber?
I suspect even McConnell knows the answer – though he clearly hopes you don’t.