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Bill Straub: Duplicity, duplicity, duplicity, thy name is Mitch — and all for party over country

Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch” McConnell has been playing the voters of the Commonwealth for suckers for most of the 36 years he has spent in Washington and now, apparently, he no longer finds it necessary to hide his chronic duplicity.

Just last week, Amy McGrath, McConnell’s Democratic opponent in the Nov. 3 Senate election, took the Louisville lawmaker to task during a debate over his failure to push through a second stimulus package to address the fiscal disaster related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noting that McConnell, as leader of the majority in the upper chamber, had failed to even consider a $3.4 trillion measure produced by the House in May, McGrath cast old Mitch’s inability to hammer out a deal at a time when millions of people – including hundreds of thousands in Kentucky – are suffering as “an absolute dereliction.”

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

McConnell tried, without success, to defend his dithering by placing blame for leaving folks in the lurch on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, who was responsible for passage of the recovery measure left molding on Mitch’s desk throughout the summer and into the fall.

“When you have divided government you actually have to reach an agreement,” McConnell said. “And the speaker has been totally unreasonable. And not interested in getting an outcome as we’ve tried and tried and tried.”

McConnell added, “I think they don’t want a solution prior to the election.”

“The speaker of the House has clearly not been interested in getting an outcome,” he said. “That’s why the talks have gone on for a while. She just chooses to blame the Republican Senate while obviously the biggest part of the problem has been the Democratic House.”

Okay, in a nutshell, our boy Mitch has been trying spectacularly to develop a second recovery bill for the suffering populace but the mean, old speaker just won’t let him.
Now fast forward a few days. Pelosi has restarted negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over the long-delayed relief bill and the pair appear to have arrived as something of a breakthrough. Negotiations continue at this time, but President Donald J. Trump, aka President Extremely Stable Genius, aka President Great and Unmatched Wisdom,  has already expressed a desire to “go big.” Pelosi, in a letter to House Democrats, asserted that “both sides are serious about finding a compromise.”

So good news, right?

Not to Mitch.

According to various publications, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, ol’ Root-‘n-Branch recommended to the president that he put the ix-nay on any deal with Pelosi before the election.

Yes, you read that right. McConnell, who only last week said he really, really, REALLY wanted a second stimulus but Pelosi wouldn’t play ball, is now telling Trump to reject any such deal worked out by the president’s representative, Mnuchin, and the self-same Pelosi.

Wow. Welcome to Mitch World. So, who is it exactly that doesn’t “want a solution prior to the election?”

Speaking at a meeting with fellow GOP senators on Tuesday, McConnell reportedly expressed dismay that a Mnuchin-Pelosi agreement could potentially fog up the Senate confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court – something he is rabidly pushing. It furthermore could cause problems for those Senate Republicans facing close re-election bids two weeks hence, with fiscally conservative voters staying home if lawmakers add more dollars to the deficit.

A number of Senate Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, already have indicated they likely will oppose any future recovery initiative because it would almost certainly add to the nation’s staggering debt, which has reached epic proportions under Trump’s guidance in large measure because of COVID-19 and an amazingly ill-considered tax cut championed by the GOP two years ago.

But lawmakers like Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, who is trailing in the polls less than two weeks out, might feel compelled to vote for it, hoping it will convince on-the-fence voters that she is looking after their best interests. The problem facing McConnell is a Mnuchin-Pelosi compromise likely will pass with all 47 Democrats and independent lawmakers voting for it along with a minority of Republicans like Collins, a situation McConnell is looking to avoid, in keeping with his party over country political philosophy.

McConnell told reporters he would report to the floor any agreement that carries the president’s imprimatur – but he wouldn’t say when.

Instead, in the short term, McConnell decided to proceed with a different sort of recovery bill with a $500 billion price tag generally considered a joke. It was aimed mainly at bolstering business and failed to include, unlike the initial recovery bill, direct government payments to needy families.

It failed in the Senate Wednesday, unable to pick up the necessary 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and without any Democratic support.

COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon. Over the past seven months, a mind-boggling 225,000 Americans have died as a result. People are out of work, businesses are going under and schools remain closed.

It’s a mess. Much of it was unavoidable. Trump’s policies, or lack thereof, did not lead to all 225,000 deaths. But he certainly contributed to thousands, far beyond what was necessary. At the same time, McConnell isn’t responsible for every bankruptcy, job loss or eviction. But sitting on a vital recovery bill all summer long, he is certainly responsible for some of the terrible fallout. And his reluctance to act now in face of the mounting evidence is simply unconscionable.

Just think for a moment what this guy has wrought. In 2016 he refused an entreaty from President Barack Obama to issue a warning to the public that Russia was working to undermine the presidential election, an involvement that might ultimately have swayed the outcome. That same year as leader of the majority, he refused to consider Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court because it came in a presidential election year. This year, in stunning fashion, he went back on his word and is attempting to shove Trump’s nomination of Barrett to the high court down the public’s throat – literally while a presidential election is in progress.

Now, after refusing to consider House-passed stimulus legislation, and publicly blaming Pelosi for failing to negotiate over the package critical to literally millions of American families, he is telling Trump to deep-six the fruit of any Pelosi labor.

Good lord.

A Mason-Dixon poll released this week shows McConnell with a nine-point lead over McGrath, 51 percent to 42 percent, with few undecided voters remaining.

Some things just make no sense. No sense whatsoever.

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  1. Willie says:

    Cute column Bill

  2. J Smith says:

    Bill “aka Mr Ad Hominem” Straub can’t make sense of the honorable Senator Mitch McConnell’s lead in the polls? It’s no surprise that “Every Crayon In The Box” Straub would find this confusing. Because just like Amy McGrath (who is proud to be further left than anyone else in Kentucky), he’s an outsider.

    Real Kentuckians know it makes perfect sense! Not even all of that New York and California money poured into the McGrath campaign can change Kentucky. Our roots are too deep and our branches are too strong.

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