How Mitch McConnell made the Senate a ‘hyperpartisan battle zone’: former Clinton official
In 2022, there is a considerable amount of bad blood between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former President Donald Trump. McConnell blames Trump for the January 6, 2021 insurrection; Trump wants McConnell replaced as GOP leader in the U.S. Senate.
Regardless, McConnell has done more than anyone to give the U.S. Supreme Court a hard-right socially conservative majority. And Ira Shapiro, a former Clinton Administration trade official and author of the book “The Betrayal: How Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans Abandoned America and The Last Great Senate,” takes a close look at McConnell’s negative influence in a scathing article published by The New Republic on May 6.
“The Senate failed because its Republican members, led by McConnell, abandoned the late Sen. John McCain’s guiding principle: ‘Country first,’” Shapiro writes. “When it mattered most, the Republican senators put their personal political interests first, the Republican Party’s interests second, and country’s interests nowhere. As America faced unprecedented, cascading, intersecting crises, the Republican senators chose to stand with Trump, either actively supporting him or silently acquiescing.”
These days, Trump rails against McConnell relentlessly. But McConnell was often a Trump enabler before the 2020 presidential election.
“The story of the Senate’s rot is first and foremost the story of Mitch McConnell,” Shapiro argues. “He was an unyielding obstructionist during the Obama presidency, culminating in his refusal to hold a vote on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. In contrast, McConnell became a relentless battering ram with Trump in the White House. He rode roughshod over one Senate custom, norm, and tradition after another.”
Shapiro cites efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, as an example of how “brazen” McConnell could be during the Trump years.
“Of course, even McConnell, the most powerful Senate leader in history, could not have done what he did without his troops,” Shapiro explains. “Throughout the Trump presidency, McConnell had only a very narrow majority with which to work. At any moment, three or four Republicans could have stopped him in his tracks. This happened exactly once, in July 2017, when John McCain, dying of brain cancer, memorably joined Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski in defeating McConnell’s brazen attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act without hearings, committee action, or floor debate.”
Shapiro emphasizes that McConnell was having a negative effect on the U.S. Senate even before Trump won the 2016 election.
“America has paid a terrible price for the experiment with Trump, a narcissistic outsider and disrupter, with authoritarian impulses and contempt for our democratic institutions,” Shapiro observes. “But it is McConnell, the political stalwart and faux institutionalist, who poisoned and undermined our political system from within, transforming the Senate into a hyper-partisan battle zone, draining it of the trust and pride that made it work in its great days, while using it for his own purposes. Years before Donald Trump became president, we were living in Mitch McConnell’s America; even with Joe Biden in the White House, to a greater extent than might have been anticipated, we still are.”
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