Republican men leave Nancy Pelosi to clean up their shutdown mess
Former GOP Speaker Paul Ryan appropriately rounded out his disgraceful tenure by laying an egg on the way out the door. Between the three Republican men who have been running the federal government for the past two years, neither Ryan nor Mitch McConnell nor Donald Trump demonstrated enough leadership to keep the government’s lights on—the bare minimum of governing responsibilities.
So now it’s up to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats, who found themselves inaugurated into a government this week that isn’t even open for business.
In some ways, it’s a seemingly impossible task. If the Republicans couldn’t even agree among themselves, how can one Democratic-led chamber of Congress possibly remedy the GOP’s record of failure.
“Leader” McConnell rang in the new Congress by ducking any and all responsibility for the shutdown he helped usher into the New Year. After House Democrats passed a package of bills to reopen the government that Senate Republicans had previously supported in the 115th Congress, McConnell promptly announced he wouldn’t even consider the funding measures now unless Trump signaled his support them. As for persuading Trump into reasonability, McConnell’s made clear that’s Democrats’ job. In fact, after a Friday showdown at the White House with Senate and House leadership on both sides of the aisle, McConnell ran for the hills before Trump gave a downright bananas press conference. In effect, McConnell’s posture is: Sorry, Nancy, but I got nothing here—good luck!
But then McConnell hasn’t really been in the business of legislating since the GOP triumvirate began their turn at the kiddy wheel in 2017. He made one exception for the Republicans’ tax giveaway for the rich, but other than that, he’s routinely reduced the Senate’s Article 1 powers down to, “We’re in the personnel business.” It’s a phrase he cheerily rolled out on the regular in 2018. In other words, legislating is hard. But passing judges through the Senate by majority vote is easy. We’ll stick to the easy tasks because anything else might require actual skill and leadership to make good on our constitutional obligations.
Yet just two working days in, Pelosi is already bringing the heat to McConnell’s conference. Two GOP Senators—Colorado’s Cory Gardner and Maine’s Susan Collins—found they simply couldn’t sell McConnell’s lazy pass-the-buck routine as they eye asking voters to reelect them in 2020.
“I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today,” Gardner said, breaking with McConnell. And when GOP senators start sweating it, McConnell might actually blink—he can’t afford to hang any of his members out to dry when he’s hoping to maintain, if not expand, his 53-seat majority in 2020.