McConnell's obstruction of Biden's agenda has already begun
The first half of this Inauguration Day has been devoted, at least rhetorically, to unity. But Sen. Mitch McConnell is still in charge of the Senate Republicans, and he's still Mitch McConnell. The chamber is evenly divided, which does one good thing: It makes Vice President Kamala Harris one of the most—if not the most—powerful VPs the nation has ever had. McConnell seems intent on making her work. In his discussions with new Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on power-sharing in the split chamber, McConnell is insisting that the agreement contain a commitment from Schumer to retain the filibuster.
That tells you everything you need to know about McConnell's intentions for helping President Biden, House Speaker Pelosi, and the Senate save the country. Staff for each leader had been operating on the assumption that the power-sharing agreement from 2001 would be the default for this time around. Then McConnell threw the filibuster curveball. Schumer spokesperson Justin Goodman said that their view is that "the fairest, most reasonable and easiest path forward is to adopt the 2001 bipartisan agreement without extraneous changes from either side." McConnell's spokesperson told the Post: "Discussions on all aspects of the power-sharing agreement will continue over the next several days."
It's good that Schumer isn't giving in to this bullshit. It wouldn't be binding if Schumer just said "sure, Mitch, whatever," but it would give the less resolute members of the Democratic conference—Joe Manchin, Chris Coons, and Dianne Feinstein—an excuse to stray from the majority. That would make it that much harder for Schumer to nuke the legislative filibuster when he needs to, and this latest from McConnell tells everyone that he's going to need to—the Republicans will do everything in their power to obstruct Biden's agenda just as they did President Barack Obama's. The good news, at least, is they can't do it on nominations.
However, McConnell has already delayed getting key Cabinet officials confirmed and in place. When he recessed the Senate until this week, it meant that those Cabinet officials couldn't go through the committee process to be ready on Day One. So right now the nation's defense is dependent upon those acting career officials in the Pentagon the Biden team could trust. The delay in agreement between Schumer and McConnell on the organizing resolution for sharing committee power could also keep more nominees in limbo because committees won't be able to formally process them until the chairs and their staffs are in place.
Some nominees could move forward with unanimous consent—all 100 senators agreeing to bring them to the floor. But already insurrectionist Sen. Josh Hawley has announced that he's objecting to a critical nominee, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Biden's pick for Homeland Security secretary. That's going to hamper Biden on everything from his immigration reforms to the coronavirus response, forcing procedural delays.
McConnell is giving every indication of dragging this out as long as he can, his monkey wrench in Biden's first 100-day plan. Because that's who he is, nation in multiple crises notwithstanding.
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