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Bill Straub: Poor grifter McConnell, what will he do when the heat gets hot on the filibuster? Your guess

It’s no secret that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell would joyfully strike a Faustian bargain to regain his position as the upper chamber’s majority leader even if it means, perhaps, forfeiting the one item he cherishes most in this world – the filibuster.

The Louisville lawmaker tut-tuts the possibility, insisting he will remain steadfast in his embrace of the odd Senate rule that requires 60 votes to even open debate on an issue – a rule he has utilized for years, thus turning the Senate into a sick joke.

McConnell has changed the rule before to suit his fancy – making nominations to the Supreme Court filibuster-proof. And he may face the prospect again over the issue of abortion.

With a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade on the horizon, which would terminate abortion as a constitutional right, McConnell told USA Today that Senate Republicans could move to impose a nationwide ban on the practice if the party assumes control of the upper chamber this November.

In so doing, McConnell was clearly playing to the GOP peanut gallery – the always demanding social conservatives — who have been making all sorts of ultimatums on the party in exchange for their votes. The McConnell gambit was intended to instill the culture warriors with the sort of fire that will rocket them to the polls and, if all goes well, reward our boy Mitch with the prize he covets and feels he deserves — a GOP majority that will install him as its leader.

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

It must have seemed like a heck of an idea, then, for McConnell to offer the God Squad the prospect of officially defining women of child-bearing years as nothing more than brood mares to get them solidly on board. A small price to pay, after all. Citing a draft decision penned by Justice Samuel Alito giving the heave-ho to Roe, obtained and published by Politico, McConnell said “legislative bodies — not only at the state level but at the federal level — certainly could legislate in that area.”

And just to put a cherry on top, McConnell added, “And if this were the final decision, that was the point that it should be resolved one way or another in the legislative process. So yeah, it’s possible” the Senate could ban the practice altogether.

McConnell’s statement immediately created something of a sticky wicket. Republicans have sought to ease the prospect of eliminating a constitutional right by proclaiming that the individual states could still determine whether or not to permit abortions, thus allowing states like New York and California to proceed uninhibited while states like Kentucky could go ahead and force young women who are victims of incest to carry the fetus to term, as if that argument would alleviate any concerns supporters of the constitutional right to abortion might have.

To complicate matters further, while Republicans might, indeed, gain control of the Senate this November, it’s unlikely to the point of lunacy to believe the party can capture the 60 votes necessary to evade a Democratic filibuster, a fact that certainly wasn’t beyond Mitch’s perception when he uttered it.

So it understandably circulated that McConnell, despite past vows to the contrary, intended to change the chamber’s rules, if or when he becomes majority leader, to kill the filibuster, opening the floodgates to just about anything the social conservative gang desires, including the aforesaid abortion ban.

But promoting a federal abortion ban is in the end unlikely to work in the favor of Republican candidates come election time, since polls continue to show a majority of Americans questioned support the Roe v. Wade decision rendered almost 50 years ago. Hinting at an outright ban under Republican control might just send the wrong kind of voters (if you know what I mean) to the polls. So Mitch, as he often does after messing up, ate crow while insisting he was really gorging on a T-bone.

“I think it’s safe to say there aren’t 60 votes there at the federal level, no matter who happens to be in the majority, no matter who happens to be in the White House,” McConnell stated at a press conference this week. “So I think the widespread sentiment of my caucus is that this issue will be dealt with at the state level.”

Killing the filibuster would be a gargantuan betrayal, even for someone who defiles trustworthiness and decency as often as McConnell, who thumbs his nose at comity as frequently as Joey Gallo strikes out.

McConnell has insisted time and time again that he would never, ever, ever kill the filibuster given the opportunity, leading anyone with any sense whatsoever to conclude he’ll do so at his first opportunity because history tells us that’s the way Mitch rolls. He has threatened some form of Armageddon if, as has been discussed, the Democratic majority moves in that direction.

“I will never — never — support smashing the legislative filibuster on this issue or any other,” he vowed on Monday.

Let’s, in a weak moment, take Addison Mitchell McConnell at his word, which is the very definition of a fool’s errand, but hold your nose and play along anyway. McConnell owes his reputation, phony as it may be, as a legislative genius, a veritable Merlin, to the filibuster, using it to shatter all existing records of legislative obstruction to an astonishing degree. If it were not for the filibuster, Mitch would be just another putz who somehow managed to destroy the federal judiciary and then complained the nation’s courts and judges weren’t getting enough respect.

But that’s another story for another time.

Even for someone with a well-defined background as a grifter, McConnell might find it difficult to backtrack on the filibuster. But his position likely will end up causing dissension within the ranks.

The increasingly aggressive social conservative crowd, which currently, at least, is far outdistancing the traditional GOP economics-first folks, want to deep-six the 60-vote rule to not only ban abortion but hit on other areas like same-sex marriage, universal availability of contraceptives and religion in public schools, using the legislative process to then take the issues to a Supreme Court likely sympathetic to those causes as a result of McConnell over the years stacking the deck on high court nominations.

Wow. Now that’s a run-on sentence. But you get the point. Mitch is about to feel the heat. The question is will he melt.

He has before. Remember that McConnell was quite enthusiastic about lowering the boom on former President Donald J. Trump in wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection, declaring that The Donald was “practically and morally responsible” for the attack on the Capitol and indicating he would support impeachment.

“It wasn’t going to happen — he wasn’t going to be a leader who stood with 15 percent of the caucus,” one aide was quoted as saying.

Faced with doing the brave and right thing or protecting his elevated status, McConnell chose the latter, which shows you what a lousy leader he really is since his job sometimes requires him to take his followers to places they really don’t want to go. As Martin and Burns noted, “The leader, in the end, could not bring himself to lead.”

Given that, how do you think he’s going to act when the crazies, who now constitute a majority of the GOP Senate caucus, lose patience and prove unwilling to sit on their hands any further while the culture warriors scream in their ears for blood?

In other words, paraphrasing the band America in that awful song “A Horse With No Name,’’ what is he going to do when the heat gets hot? Sen. Joni Ernst, R-IA, has already announced plans to introduce legislation banning abortions after six weeks of conception that is drawing some support. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-TN, who is as looney as they come, is also getting ready to raise the bloody shirt in the culture wars.

Stay tuned, folks. This could get interesting.

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One Comment

  1. Richard says:

    No one in my world holds the position that women are ‘brood mares’ as you call them. Women are held in high esteem. After all they are gifted with the ability to bring life into the world. I suspect Mr. McConnell holds the same position. The democrats ‘no limits’ on abortion position means that roughly half of all abortions affect women directly, by snuffing out their lives, before they have a chance to take their first breath. According to the CDC, in 2019 alone, there were 195 abortions per 1,000 live births, a total of around 625,000. That’s more than the number of U.S. soldiers that died in WWI and WW2 combined!

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