Not gonna happen. I think.
“McConnell needs to resign!!” Louisiana GOP Chairman Roger Villere wrote in a Facebook posting…
“Mitch is a good and honorable guy, but the base is leaving our party,” Mr. Villere said in an interview with The Washington Times. “I’m out in the field all the time and we have all our elections this year for state offices, and it’s hurting us tremendously with our elections.”
“Mr. McConnell could have suspended consideration of confirmations for all presidential appointees, except for those who are essential to national security, until the president rescinded his unconstitutional executive action on amnesty,” Mr. Villere said.
Ben Domenech makes a similar point today. The reason Boehner’s in such a bind, he argues, is because McConnell refuses to play hardball with Senate Democrats either by nuking the filibuster to push Republicans bills onto Obama’s desk or holding up Senate business to pressure Democrats into either voting for cloture on those bills or maintaining a “talking filibuster” for days on end to keep them bottled up. The Senate has become a dead end for conservative bills originating in the House, forcing Boehner to inevitably capitulate to centrists on one major bill after another in the name of finding something that Senate Dems will allow through. Why should Boehner, a victim of the bottleneck, pay the price instead of McConnell?
To understand the missed opportunity here, consider what could have happened if McConnell was not so dedicated to keeping the Senate “open for business” and working with the president on other priorities. Imagine instead what would have happened if McConnell saw the opportunity to break Reid and isolate the president on spending. He could have canceled all other Senate business, canceled the recesses, and forced the Democrats to block the Defense appropriations bill every 72 hours until September 30^th. No weekends off, no holidays, keeping 75 year old men up all night for days, allowing no personal comforts until the filibuster is broken. In stark comparison to the media’s willingness to hide the ball on Planned Parenthood, Republicans would have been gifted with three months of messaging on “Democrats are so angry at the American people for taking away their majority, they are refusing to pay the troops.”
Instead, McConnell did what Democrats expected him to do. He griped about it, moved on, and looked to a continuing resolution. He extracted no price at all from Reid and his caucus for shutting down the budget process. There was no pain or penalty for Democrats for killing the appropriations process. That, after all, would have required working weekends.
Rep. Matt Salmon, a conservative, sent a text message to Mike Lee last week that read, “Next guy in the crosshairs will probably be McConnell.” What does he mean “probably”? McConnell’s already in the crosshairs, as Villere’s comments today prove, and the next two months of fighting over Planned Parenthood and the debt ceiling will only secure his position there. This is an “irresistible force meets immovable object” situation, though — the force is the anger that grassroots righties feel towards the leadership’s acquiescence in Obama’s agenda and the object is McConnell’s conviction that anything the new GOP majority does to suggest it can’t govern, from shutdowns to leadership battles to sudden moves towards eliminating the filibuster, will be used by Democrats next fall to reclaim the majority as “the responsible party.” Essentially, McConnell’s decided that he needs to scrupulously not exercise his power as majority leader in the interest of preserving that power when voters go to the polls next year. So then: How do you propose to oust McConnell as leader? Unlike Boehner, who had four and a half years to “enjoy” being Speaker, he’s only been majority leader for nine months. He’s not going to quit, and there’s no reason to think that a majority of the Senate GOP caucus would vote to remove him. I think he’s resolved to play lightning rod for the base in the name of retaining his position as the “adult” in the room, thwarting the Cruzes and Salmons in Congress from blowing up any chance the GOP has in 2016 by instigating a debt-ceiling crisis, etc.
But maybe I’m wrong. It’s a fait accompli that Kevin McCarthy, as the new Speaker, will try to impress conservatives by taking a stand early on some right-wing priority. Even a shutdown probably wouldn’t hurt Republicans much next year provided it’s a short one. (Ask any righty about the prospects of a shutdown over Planned Parenthood and he’ll remind you that the GOP did okay in 2014 despite the shutdown over ObamaCare a year earlier.) McCarthy could, if he wanted, reverse the dynamic that Domenech describes by putting McConnell on the spot on a series of bills designed to draw a contrast between the resoluteness of the new Speaker and the queasiness of the Senate majority leader. If McCarthy passed a series of conservative bills and refused to consider watering them down until McConnell had attempted to break Democratic resolve with more aggressive leadership tactics, it would secure McConnell as the party’s supreme RINO boogeyman while earning McCarthy some goodwill with his new base. And McConnell, under those circumstances, might feel obliged to make a concession of some sort, perhaps by eliminating the filibuster for certain kinds of votes (e.g., eliminating it for votes on resolutions regarding executive agreements with foreign powers would have gotten the GOP’s disapproval of the Iran deal to Obama’s desk). He’d be taking a risk by doing that — what if Chuck Schumer and President Hillary inherit a filibuster-less Senate in 2017? — but increasingly he’s also taking a risk with the GOP base by not doing it. Enjoy your new role as conservative public enemy number one, Mac.