Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks back to his office after speaking on the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
I am not generally a Mitch McConnell fan. His litany of sins is long and egregious. He along with Paul Ryan, essentially rolled newly minted President Trump on the first budget, getting him to sign off on a huge deficit increase. He followed that up by interfering in Alabama’s 2017 Senate Republican primary, resulting in the election of a liberal Democrat (Doug Jones) for the first time since 1997.
Having said all of that, an honest pundit (which I do try to be) should give the devil his due. In matters of procedure, process and when it gets right down to it, political hardball, McConnell is the master. Take judicial confirmations for instance. Over at Slate, Mark Joseph Stern writes
The continued churn of Trump’s judicial confirmation machine ensures that the impact of his soon-to-be-tainted presidency will be felt for decades.
Obviously Stern is no fan of the President, but he recognizes the assembly line efficiency of the current judicial confirmation process, a process largely quarterbacked by Majority Leader McConnell. Here is the confirmation score to date:
50-Appellate Court Judges
133-District Court Judges
2-International Trade Court Judges
Total: 187 Judges…so far
This is so important that many conservative (your humble scribe included) would vote Trump in 2020, even if this was the only thing he had accomplished so far and would accomplish in the future. For simply that, President Trump owes McConnell a lot.
Then there was that ineptly managed, politically motivated impeachment charade foisted on Trump and the American People by the Democrats. Leader McConnell played to two target audiences masterfully.
First, the Republicans, both in Congress and us deplorables in flyover country. When Speaker Pelosi refused to send the Articles of Impeachment over to the Senate until McConnell agreed to conduct the Senate Trial according to rules she approved of. The Senate Majority Leader of course knows what an idle threat Madam Speaker issued by replying in his typically laconic fashion
“Some House Democrats imply they are withholding the articles for some kind of ‘leverage’ so they can dictate the Senate process to senators. I admit, I’m not sure what ‘leverage’ there is in refraining from sending us something we do not want.”
Well Played Mitch. Well played.
Then there is the second target audience, President Donald Trump. Mitch McConnell has done a masterful job at showing President Trump the extent of his power. McConnell easily moved his caucus to put away the new witnesses effort by the Democrats, but allowed two members to join the Democrats. More on that in a second.
The Majority Leader then allowed further commentary by the House Managers, the Trump Team and various and sundry Senators, which also had the undesired effect of building more time into the process. More time equals more opportunity for the leftists to discover, or outright manufacture more “bombshells” to weaken the resolve of pusillanimous poltroons such as Mitt Romney.
He didn’t need to do this. Both the new witnesses conversation and the additional commentary period could have been kiboshed by McConnell right from jump street. This would have denied further media opportunity to the Democrats while allowing President Trump to walk into last night’s State of The Union Address an acquitted man.
This is McConnell sending two messages to the President and us. “I can make you (witnesses & acquittal) and I can break you (extending the process).“ I would be very surprised if McConnell doesn’t extract some things from Trump during his next term that will be very unpalatable to President Trump’s base. Remember, you heard it hear first.