Mitch McConnell’s Toxic Legacy
Perhaps the most consequential members of Congress in the 21st century so far are Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Their leadership was instrumental to the passage of the 2009 Recovery Act, the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank during President Obama’s first term.
The Obama agenda that was passed with their help resulted in a turnaround for the U.S. We went from losing 800,000 jobs per month when Obama took office to creating 200,000 jobs per month by January 2017. The ACA insured 20 million additional Americans, led to 50,000 fewer preventable hospital deaths and reduced personal bankruptcies by 50%.
The historically most significant Congressional member for the GOP in this century so far has to be Mitch McConnell — for all of the wrong reasons. McConnell did everything he could to block this progress during the Obama Administration and is now doing everything he can to destroy Obama’s legacy.
McConnell’s toxic and partisan obstruction during the Obama Administration began before Obama was even sworn into office. During the gravest economic crisis faced by the U.S. since the Great Depression, the Kentucky Senator schemed to prevent any Republican Senators from entering into any deals with the Democrats. In early 2009, several Republican Senators revealed McConnell’s cynical strategy to Vice President Biden: “The way it was characterized to me was: `For the next two years, we can’t let you succeed in anything. That’s our ticket to coming back.” Biden said.
Unfortunately, the GOP’s extreme partisanship and obstruction soured many voters on the Obama Administration and led to the GOP regaining control of the House during the 2010 election cycle. At his first press conference after that GOP victory, the Senate GOP leader was asked what his top priority would be for the next Congress. Instead of saying it would jobs, health care or national security, McConnell said: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
McConnell kept his pledge to continue to emphasize party over country during the last six years of the Obama presidency. During that period, the Republicans in Congress damaged the credit rating of the U.S. by threatening to default on our debts, shutdown the government and blocked the nominations of numerous qualified executive and judicial branch nominees.
The senior Kentucky Senator’s partisanship and obstruction reached its apogee when McConnell and the Senate Republicans refused to even grant a hearing and an up or down vote to the nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court. That had never happened before in the modern history of the U.S. Senate.
That blockade of Garland further exposed McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans (including Sasse and Fischer) as contemptible hypocrites and bitter partisans. On May 19, 2005, the Kentucky Senator said: “The Republican conference intends to restore the principle that, regardless of party, any President’s judicial nominees, after full debate, deserve a simple up-or-down vote.”
McConnell didn’t only blockade the confirmation of Garland during the 2016 election cycle, he also prevented President Obama from fully informing the voters about the Russian efforts to help Trump. In September 2016, President Obama held a meeting with the Congressional leaders from both parties to brief them on Russian interference in the election and to forge a bi-partisan response to that meddling.
The Democratic leaders acknowledged the gravity of the crisis but McConnell disparaged the underlying intelligence and told the White House he would regard any effort by the Obama Administration to call out the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.
Now that Russia’s preferred candidate is in the Oval Office, McConnell has been trying to move heaven and earth to pass a health care bill that would take away insurance from 22 million Americans to fund a $600 billion tax cut for the wealthy.
In his attempt to pass this destructive legislation, McConnell has blown up just about every Senate rule and norm. There have been no hearings, no committee markups, no input from experts and there still isn’t even a final version of the bill even though the vote has been scheduled for Tuesday. As Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said: “Knowing what the Republican healthcare bill will be before a procedural vote is a luxury we don’t have.”
McConnell, Fischer and Sasse are preparing to end Medicaid as we know it without a single hearing and without a final bill. If McConnell can destroy Medicaid with these scorched earth tactics, Medicare and Social Security are next.
We are truly at a crossroads in American history. Majority rule and democracy are at stake in the health care debate. We must resist with all of our might. Please call your Senators at 202–224–3121 and demand that they start over. We need hearings and a bi-partisan solution now! Thank you for what you do!