Mitch McConnell's empty promise: We'll force Obama to rein in government or else risk a shutdown

Does anyone actually believe this?

I guess Kentucky Republicans who don’t pay attention to politics but who’ll end up deciding this year’s Senate race anyway do. God bless democracy.

“We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy,” McConnell said in an interview aboard his campaign bus traveling through Western Kentucky coal country. “That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it.”…

McConnell risks overreaching if he follows through with his pledge to attach policy riders to spending bills. If Obama refuses to accept such measures, a government shutdown could ensue. Republicans bore much of the blame for last year’s government shutdown, which was prompted by conservative tactics McConnell opposed, and their fortunes rebounded only when the administration bungled the rollout of Obamacare.

But asked about the potential that his approach could spark another shutdown, McConnell said it would be up to the president to decide whether to veto spending bills that would keep the government open.

Obama “needs to be challenged, and the best way to do that is through the funding process,” McConnell said. “He would have to make a decision on a given bill, whether there’s more in it that he likes than dislikes.”

To repeat: Does anyone actually believe this? McConnell was one of the sharpest Republican critics of the “defund” strategy that produced a government shutdown last fall. Watch the clip below if you need your memory refreshed. He’s fond of saying about it, “There’s no education in the second kick of a mule,” i.e. the GOP paid a political price for the 1995 shutdown and then foolishly paid the same price again in 2013 (although the backlash was blunted by public outrage at the meltdown that was happening simultaneously). Quote: “I think we have fully now acquainted our new members with what a losing strategy that is.” He hates shutdowns almost as much as the people in the GOP’s donor class who bankroll him do.

And yet here he is, soothing conservatives who are leery of reelecting him by vowing to take the fight to Obama this time and make him cause a shutdown if he refuses to agree to Republican demands. And he wants you to believe he’s going to do this while prominent Republicans, including his pal Rand Paul, are declaring their candidacies in 2016. It’s the purest nonsense. To believe it, you need to believe that somehow, if Obama vetoes the sort of bill McConnell’s describing here, that the GOP will win the ensuing media war over who “really” caused the shutdown. Which party, do you suppose, will the press hold responsible? Whom did they hold responsible in 1995, when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and went head to head with a Democratic president? The party that loves government, the bigger the better, or the one that doesn’t?

McConnell has a history of empty rhetoric about brinksmanship with Obama too. Remember this?

The Senate’s top Republican signaled Tuesday that he will seek to extract concessions from Democrats in exchange for lifting the nation’s debt limit in 2014, potentially foreshadowing a grueling fiscal fight during an election year.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that he “can’t imagine” that the debt ceiling increase will be a “clean” one — meaning that it will have no conditions attached to it. McConnell, a key negotiator on deals ending the debt ceiling standoff in 2011 and this year during the government shutdown, noted that past significant legislative agreements have been attached to such increases. He was skeptical that the House or the Senate would have an appetite to hand President Barack Obama a clean debt limit hike.

Two months later he voted for cloture on — ta da — a clean debt-ceiling hike, even though Harry Reid had more than enough votes without him to break a filibuster by Ted Cruz. And so we already know what’ll happen next year: McConnell and Boehner will pass a spending bill with some riders attached, Obama will veto it, a shutdown deadline will loom, and eventually McConnell will agree to a clean bill while promising to fight another day. How many times do you need to see this movie to know the plot?

It will, perhaps, not surprise you to learn that Kentucky Democrats are having a field day with the excerpt above, claiming that McConnell’s already cooking up new shutdowns for America. They know which side is helped by shutdown politics. And so does Mitch the Knife, which, again, is why this is an empty threat.

Jazz Shaw Aug 17, 2022 11:01 AM ET