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Bill Straub: The Grim Reaper holds fast, then blames the other side; count the bills just sitting on his desk

The best way to describe the legislative acumen of Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch’’ McConnell is to resurrect the three-card monte guys that used to set up outside the Port Authority Building in Manhattan to scam the Jersey guys that constantly poured out on to Eighth Avenue.

These days, McConnell, of Moscow, by way of Louisville, is utilizing his sleight-of-hand skills to convince the public that House Democrats are derelict of duty because they have been concentrating so rigorously on impeaching President Donald J. Trump, aka President Extremely Stable Genius, aka President Great and Unmatched Wisdom, that they are ignoring other necessary governmental functions.

“Democrats’ impeachment obsession has delayed crucial governing responsibilities to the 11th hour: Funding for the federal government, money for our troops, must-pass legislation for national defense,’’ ol’ Root-‘n-Branch asserted in a recent tweet. “Basic, bipartisan work for our country that Democrats have been blocking.”

Exhibiting the sort of concern for country over love of party for which he has become renowned, (cough, cough) McConnell added, “I sincerely hope my Democratic colleagues will let Congress get this basic business done for our nation.”

This, of course, is quintessential McConnell. When it suits his nefarious purposes, he will in jolly fashion accept sobriquets like “The Grim Reaper” to describe his predilection toward killing House-passed legislation, worthwhile or not. He is quite pleased to operate what critics characterize as a “legislative graveyard,” a term he embraces. Then he will quickly turn around and accuse Democrats of failing to fulfill their legislative responsibilities.

Sen. Mitch McConnell

McConnell is echoing his master’s voice. Trump has consistently used the term “do-nothing’’ as a rather obvious ploy over the past few months to divert attention from the serious ongoing debate over impeachment. He most recently yelped, for example, “The Do-Nothing Democrats are a disgrace!”

It should be noted that McConnell’s complaint that a lot of essential business in Congress is waylaid until the final possible moment, is well taken, creating problems when it’s discovered that legislation passed in frenetic fashion causes new problems that need to be corrected by the following Congress at its first opportunity.

But to say this is a problem exclusive to Democratic majorities is laughable. It has, in fact, been going on for too many years and Moscow Mitch himself has found himself in the middle of it on numerous occasions – like when the federal government has shut down because Democrats and Republicans couldn’t arrive at a budgetary agreement.

Now it’s fair to say, in partial defense of the majority leader, that part of his job is to gig the loyal opposition to stop dragging their feet, if, indeed that’s what they’re doing in seeking a political advantage. In the current situation, however, it’s fairly obvious that it’s Senate Republicans sitting on the sidelines while the Democrat-controlled House is passing reams of legislation that are being ignored.

According to govtrack, only 78 new laws have been enacted this year, which is well below average. That likely will change some before Jan. 1 if, as expected, the two chambers adopt the National Defense Authorization Act, which basically reauthorizes the U.S. military. It was one of the bills gathering dust and giving old Mitch angina that finally resulted in a deal.

But there are literally scores of House-passed bills – many of them significant – that McConnell has chosen to ignore, basically because he can. To ol’Root-‘n’Branch the imperative is to take up Senate floor time confirming federal judges, some of whom barely qualify for the job, thus making a mockery of the courts.

The House Democratic Policy & Communications Committee reports that as of Nov. 22 the House had passed almost 400 pieces of legislation, some of which are aimed at “driving down health care costs, raising wages and cleaning up corruption in Washington.” But 80 percent of those measures are being blocked from consideration in the Senate by McConnell, who, you’ll recall, is castigating the lower chamber for inaction.

“Sadly, more than 275 bipartisan bills passed by the House are currently sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk waiting for a vote,” said David Cicilline, D-RI, the panel’s chairman. “He’d rather tout himself as the grim reaper than vote on these bills that will help his constituents and the American people. Senator McConnell should do his job or his constituents will pick someone who will.”

So, what are some of these bills? Well, there are at least three measures awaiting action in the upper chamber with the aim of lowering prescription drug costs. The Protecting Americans With Pre-Existing Conditions Act of 2019 has been laying on McConnell’s desk since May.

There’s the Paycheck Fairness Act, a version of which was introduced way back in 1997, closes loopholes in the existing law to assure equal pay for equal work. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that woman make 82 cents for every dollar their male counterpart makes and the gap has actually widened over the past four years.

Supporting the Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act is still languishing even though most of it is a reauthorization. The hold up is a new provision prohibiting anyone convicted of misdemeanor stalking and more domestic abuse crimes from possessing a gun.

Speaking of guns, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which would establish new background check requirements for firearm transfers between private parties – or, unlicensed individuals.

McConnell’s refusal to consider that measure, the Violence Against Women Act and others, attracted the attention of Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who last week ripped McConnell by name after one of his officers was gunned down responding to a domestic violence call.

“We all know in law enforcement that this is one of the biggest reasons that the Senate and Mitch McConnell, and (Sen.) John Cornyn (R-TX) and (Sen.) Ted Cruz (R-TX) and others are not getting into a room and having a conference committee with the House, and getting the Violence Against Women Act, is because the NRA doesn’t like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends that abuse their girlfriends,” Acevedo said.

“And who killed our sergeant? A boyfriend abusing his girlfriend.”

Acevedo went further, asserting that “You’re either here for women and children and our daughters and our sisters and our aunts, or you’re here for the NRA.

“So I don’t want to see their little smug faces talking about how much they care about law enforcement when I’m burying a sergeant because they don’t want to piss off the NRA. Make up your minds. Whose side are you on? Gun manufacturers? The gun lobby? Or the children that are getting gunned down in this country every single day?”

These measures, and others, are destined for the legislative graveyard by the self-appointed Grim Reaper, who then turns around and blames the Democratic-controlled House for inaction. That, folks, is all you need to know about Addison Mitchell McConnell, who has done more in recent years to destroy the American dream than any other individual walking on this planet.


The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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