Mitch McConnell’s Big Red Wall of No

The big news today is that it appears Mitch McConnell has backed down on blocking Democrats from assuming the majority in the Senate and will allow the power-sharing agreement to proceed. I say appears because it is now afternoon in Washington DC, and from what I can tell from news reports the deal isn’t done yet.

The most recent news, from Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner at WaPo:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Democrats Tuesday that Republicans would counter any attempt to eliminate the filibuster, the 60-vote supermajority requirement to move most legislation, with “immediate chaos” that would grind the chamber — and the Democratic governing agenda — to a halt.

McConnell delivered his admonition less than a day after he signaled he would move forward with a power-sharing agreement governing operations of the 50-50 Senate — only after two Democratic senators made public assurances that they would not support eliminating the filibuster.

Both senators, Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), had previously said they opposed ditching the rule, and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared victory Tuesday — thanking McConnell for accepting “exactly what Democrats proposed from the start.”

“I’m glad we’re finally able to get the Senate up and running,” Schumer said. “My only regret is that it took so long.”

But McConnell, speaking after Schumer, said it was Republicans who had secured a victory, by ensuring that the filibuster is not in immediate peril. He went to on to describe in detail how the GOP would respond if Democrats changed their position and moved to eliminate the filibuster in order to pass their agenda.

Yeah, we can’t let the party that won the bleeping election pass their agenda, can we?

If Dems mess with filibuster rules, McConnell plans to raise objections to routine business and issue frequent quorum calls to gum up the works and stop Democrats from getting anything done. That’s what he said he would do, and I don’t doubt he will do it.

McConnell said Tuesday a further escalation would mean Senate business would move at “a snail’s pace” and “drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory.”

Nah, I think McConnell has already done that. I don’t see how it could get any worse than it already is.

The question is, can the Democrats get around McConnell’s big red wall of no? I don’t understand Senate procedures well enough to answer that question. Greg Sargent:

Superficially, it’s of course good news that McConnell backed down. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) correctly judged that McConnell would buckle if Democrats refused to rule out ending the legislative filibuster later. They’ll need to preserve that possibility as a future weapon against relentless McConnell obstructionism.

But the bad news is that en route to this point, two moderate Senate Democrats — Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — further dug themselves in against ending the filibuster at any point. Though that could change, for now it risks weakening Democratic leverage against McConnell’s use of it to frustrate Biden’s agenda.

It’s always possible Manchin and Sinema could change their minds again, I suppose.

Waldman goes on to say that what’s at stake here isn’t just President Biden’s agenda. And it isn’t just getting a relief package to Americans asap. “No, what McConnell is threatening is even worse than all that. By Schumer’s analysis, successful McConnell obstruction would also continue undermining faith in democracy itself, making voters susceptible to another Trumpist demagogue,” Waldman writes.

In short, if Biden’s agenda passes and succeeds, it destroys the anti-government mythology that Republicans have used these past forty years to undermine democracy and turn the U.S. into a plutocracy.  Republican governance is about exploiting America’s people and resources for the benefit of the rich, and that’s that.

Assuming a power sharing agreement goes into effect in the next few hours, that’s just the beginning of the war. If legislation will still require 60 votes to move forward, the big red wall is still in place. They can use reconciliation to get past the 60 vote threshold on some bills, but not all the bills, I don’t believe.

On the plus side, Chuck Schumer insists he has learned the lesson of the obstructed Obama agenda and will not take McConnell’s “no” for an answer. “Schumer pledged that this time, Democrats will not get lured in by GOP bad faith, and vowed that Democrats will respond with procedural aggressiveness against McConnell’s all-but-certain duplication of that performance,” Paul Waldman says. So we’ll see.

Click here to see clips of Rachel Maddow’s interview with Schumer last night.

10 thoughts on “Mitch McConnell’s Big Red Wall of No

  1. I still am miffed that Schumer did not tell all of the Democratic Senators two months ago to just STFU if they were opposed to changing the filibuster rule if for no reason other than to strengthen his bargaining position.

    To believe that #MoscowMitch is NOT going to f*ck over the Biden Administration and the Biden Agenda at every chance he gets is to fail to understand Mitch and his history.  The ONLY way to get Mitch to support the "too costly" $1.9 Trillion stimulus/relief that Biden wants is to give $5.7 Trillion to the 1%ers and corporations.

  2. Moscow Mitch is pretending that he won. He didn't. The 50-50 split will change in 2022. Mitch does NOT have a promise from Schumer to preserve the filibuster. We don't have the votes to eliminate the filibuster this month.

    In 2008 up until 2010, Obama was getting sucked along with the pretense of bipartisanship right around the corner. We know that won't happen and this time, we won't get suckered into expecting it. Where we can, we use reconciliation – that's potentially raising taxes, Covid relief, Covid funding for the states (testing, hospital help, and vaccine distribution), and minimum wage. Those are huge.

    We need to move with popular legislation like immigration reform which the GOP will block. We need to advance anti-corruption legislation and let the GOP block it. Democrats need to wear themselves out on the words "gridlock" and "obstruction" pinning it entirely on the GOP for the next two years. 

    The reality is: we may not be able to pull the filibuster for two more years. We have to make it clear who is blocking progress on popular and essential legislation. Even with the fillibuster, Biden should be able to succeed on Covid and take credit for the mass inoculation. We should be able to change the economy, add jobs, and pivot away from oil. 

    In 2023, we end the filibuster. The battle cry becomes, "an end to gridlock." That becomes Biden's biggest triumph, freeing Congress to actually do stuff for people. If the GOP has fractured (and I think the split will look like the Grand Canyon) in 2021, Democrats need to invite GOP participation in bipartisan crafting of bills. We might have to vote down every partisan attempt to gut the legislation but we can do that in committee and in full assembly and thank the GOP very much for participating. 

    Why be nice? Because if Democrats 1) break gridlock 2) make progress on essential issues we force the GOP to either build the pretense of cooperation in order to claim partial credit OR force the GOP to declare that popular legislation happened despite every bit of opposition they could muster. Make THEM be the assholes. (Yes, some of us have been paying attention, Maha.)

    • In 2023, we end the filibuster.

      Historically, the party in power loses seats in the midterm. McConnell’s strategy for the next two years will be to obstruct as much as possible, to gain as many seats as possible in 2022. We barely have a majority, which I fear will disappear entirely in 2022.

      Reconciliation is the way.

  3. I am not well versed on the details of Senate rules, but why is it that it seems republicans always have more power to obstruct things in the Senate, when they are in the minority, than democrats have when they are in the minority?  For the last four years, and even before that, republicans didn't have a 60 vote filibuster proof majority in the Senate, yet they've ruled absolutely.  They rammed through the Barrett nomination in a sheer power move that upset every norm and custom, and democrats were powerless.  Now, here the dems have a tie and the majority with the VP, and McConnell is still in a position to not just call the shots but control which shots the democrats can call!  He had to agree to let the democrats have the power their majority entitles them to!  I just read that the anti-lynching bill can now be passed with the dems 50 + 1 majority, but can still be stopped cold if one senator (Paul) raises an objection.  Same thing with restoration of the Voting Rights Act.

    Democrats MUST start using every lever and tool of power available to them in the Senate, and use it as shamelessly and dispassionately as the GOP does when it comes to obstructing them.  It makes no sense that republicans are allowed to do all kinds of damage to society simply because, tradition.

    • I am not well versed on the details of Senate rules, but why is it that it seems republicans always have more power to obstruct things in the Senate, when they are in the minority, than democrats have when they are in the minority? 

      The reason the Democrats didn't have much obstruction capability is, the Republicans ended all filibusters on all judges and that was all they cared about.

      The only legislative accomplishment was a tax giveaway that made jobs far more expensive to employers (and, as Republicans say when it's minimum wage, "if jobs cost employers more, there will be fewer jobs"), and that could pass under reconciliation. Oh, I'm sure they named a few post offices, declared August 17th national "day Day", the day we celebrate having national (fill in the blank) days (because *why not*?), etc., but there simply wasn't any legislation of note, just endless maneuvering to find ways to appoint more judges (and create more openings).

      Now, setting a national minimum wage is not subject to reconciliation. Only essential dollars and cents stuff can go in reconciliation. They could demand more money for housing vouchers, but they couldn't expand availability for housing vouchers; they could bump up subsidies , or provide a higher federal contribution for Medicaid expansion, but they couldn't change who is eligible for Medicaid or insurance subsidies, etc..

      I might be misunderstanding a bit of this, due to technicalities, but the essential bit is correct. This is why the ACA had to be based on the passed Senate bill, with only money juggling that could be passed through reconciliation, to become law. There had to be a bill passed by the Senate (check), that had to be passed by the House (check, with the promise of changes via reconciliation) and a President willing to sign a "big (expletive deleted) deal",

      Which, please note, means the ACA passed through the regular order, with some changes that were as reasonable as, I dunno, using reconciliation to pass a big tax giveaway. Not that Republicans will admit that, because, face it, from appearances, most of them don't even have good faith when going to church, much less when debating policy.

      • "Not that Republicans will admit that, because, face it, from appearances, most of them don't even have good faith when going to church, much less when debating policy."

        You could be on to something here.  I keep thinking the Republican Party has lost it's soul but it could be they just bought into some bad faith. 

  4. Schumer looks like the man for the job.  His position exuded no malic/no mercy.  Schumer seems the right person at the right time.  Climate change is an emergency, and he rightfully contends it needs to be treated that way.  Greta Thunberg coaches us to think of it and act like it is a crisis.  That sounds like very good advice.  


  5. Democrats have always been that clueless, goofy guy who wants to look like a badass, but brings a plastic spork to the knifefight.

    RepubliKKKLANS are always willing to sacrifice their own mother's at the altar of Mammon for tax-cuts for the richest of the rich!

    Democrats want to sign a bipartisan bill bill, and announce it to the nation by everyone joining in and singing "Kumbaya!"

    If you're wondering who's been winning that war of complete opposites over the past few decades, take a good look around, and it shouldn't take more than a few seconds to conclude that we "Kumbaya" carollers ain't winnin' nothin' that'll scare Satan's Southern son:  Moscow Mitch.

    Give Chuck time.

    And give Chuck the wisdom to lop McCommel's manhood off at the right time!!!

    • Democrats have always been that clueless, goofy guy who wants to look like a badass, but brings a plastic spork to the knifefight.

      Heh. I'll grant you that, but I think their big problem is, no one *told* them it was going to be a knife fight, except for a bunch of stupid people saying extremely stupid things, which only crazy people could take seriously.

      I think they may now take the stupid and crazy far more seriously. I hope so!

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