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The wrong guy to whine about the end of 'the era of bipartisanship'

If it's "pretty clear the era of bipartisanship is over," is the Senate minority leader prepared to talk about who ended it?


Two weeks ago, Senate Democrats had every reason to believe that Republicans would reject a bipartisan proposal to create an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack, but the majority leadership held the vote anyway. Dems believe it was important to get members on the record, and give on-the-fence GOP senators a chance to possibly change their minds.

The same thing happened again yesterday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, and it's likely to keep happening, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) continues to bring legislative priorities to the floor, whether Republicans like the measures or not.

His GOP counterpart offered a curious rejoinder yesterday.

Republicans said Democrats were pivoting from measures that drew bipartisan support in a bid to satisfy their progressive wing and to paint Republicans as obstructionists. [...] "It's pretty clear the era of bipartisanship is over," said Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) earlier Tuesday.

Oh? Were we enjoying the era of bipartisanship before yesterday?

Part of the problem with McConnell's complaint is the evidence to the contrary. The fact remains that there are ongoing bipartisan efforts on a variety of fronts, ranging from infrastructure to law-enforcement reforms to technological competition with China. If GOP leaders want to paint Democrats as relentless partisans, repulsed by the very idea of good-faith negotiations with their Republican rivals, reality tells a very different story.

But let's not brush past the disconnect between the message and the messenger.

I'm reminded of a column the Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote a few years ago, describing McConnell as the politician who effectively "broke America."

No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government. His has been the epitome of unprincipled leadership, the triumph of tactics in service of short-term power. [...]McConnell is no idiot. He is a clever man who does what works for him in the moment, consequences be damned.

Circling back to our earlier coverage, whether one finds McConnell's work outrageous is a matter of perspective. If you're a myopic Republican partisan, the GOP's Senate leader has simply taken every possible opportunity to maximize his party's interests, using the levers of power at his disposal. McConnell, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't committed any crimes in his partisan pursuits, so much as he's pushed the limits in ways without precedent in the American tradition, ignoring any sense of norms or institutional limits.

And to that end, McConnell has been quite successful.

But if you're not a myopic Republican partisan, and your principal concern is with the health of the American political system, McConnell's work has earned him a role as one of this generation's most consequential villains.

It was McConnell who changed Senate norms to require 60-vote supermajorities on every piece of legislation of any significance. It was McConnell who was responsible for creating the modern judicial confirmation wars. It was McConnell who spearheaded every recent attempt to derail campaign-finance reforms.

It was McConnell who cooked up an unprecedented scorched-earth scheme to undermine Barack Obama's presidency, deliberately refusing to consider any compromises -- even if it meant rejecting his own ideas -- in the hopes of trying to ensure that the Democratic president only served one term.

It was McConnell who imposed the first-ever, year-long blockade on any Supreme Court nominee. It was McConnell who, just last month, shared some candid thoughts about his priorities: "One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration."

If it's "pretty clear the era of bipartisanship is over," is the Senate minority leader prepared to talk about who ended it?