Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is telling Politico to “trust us, we’re the Republicans.” He’s also hoping that message resonates with voters who will keep Congress in GOP hands.
“I didn’t want the American people to think that if they joined us with [a Republican] president of similar views, there would be anything sort of frightening for the country,” McConnell said in an interview with Politico reflecting on his first year as majority leader. “And so that’s what we’ve been: a responsible, right-of-center governing majority.”
McConnell’s statement is amusing because both Rasmussen and Gallup put congressional performance in the single digits. But it’s possible McConnell put forth a pretty aggressive agenda for 2016 because he wants to bring those poll numbers up. Via Politico:
Now, heading into an election-year political environment that won’t exactly tilt toward legislative headway, McConnell is nonetheless promising that the Senate won’t get stuck in the doldrums. Topping his agenda is a push to pass all 12 appropriations bills, a goal that’s eluded Congress since 1994. The larger objective is to make the case to voters in 2016 that the GOP Senate is in capable hands — and so they should keep it that way…
As for next year, McConnell wants to bring up stalled legislation reforming how the government regulates toxic chemicals. He would not commit to taking up a sweeping rewrite of the nation’s criminal justice laws, a cause that has support within both parties on Capitol Hill and at the White House.
His most definitive statement about his plans for 2016 is to make a concerted push to pass spending bills, an effort that promises to eat up months of the legislative calendar. Democrats this year filibustered appropriations bills as a deliberate strategy. But now that Congress enacted a two-year budget deal, and spending levels that the minority party agreed to are locked in, McConnell believes Democrats have no “rational basis” for continuing to block appropriations bills.
There’s is a certain feeling among those in the media that Congress doesn’t do enough, but that may not be something the American public shares. Charles C.W. Cooke has long been of the belief the Constitution actually encourages gridlock. He wrote in National Review in 2013 how gridlock was purposefully put in place by the Founding Fathers.
Having watched the radical transformation of the British system during the 17th and 18th centuries — and studied undulations of the classical world, for good measure — most of the Founders were strikingly well versed in political theory. The introduction of limiting tools such as the rule of law, term restrictions, a codified constitution, a bill of rights, and divided government were intended to dispense with the presumption, famously termed “elective dictatorship” by Lord Hailsham, that the man who is voted in as leader every four or so years should have carte blanche to get things done. In other words, the Founders sought to block precisely what Yglesias and his cohorts covet. Nobody is perfect, of course, but I would wager everything I own that the architects of America were more au courant with the vagaries of human nature and the concentrating tendency of political actors than are the writers at Slate.
This is a pretty interesting theory, and there may be something to this. I’ve always believed the federal government wasn’t supposed to be as active as it is, something which Republicans and Democrats fail to realize. It’s completely possible gridlock is one of the checks against the “getting things done” notion. In fact, some of the worst legislation which ever made it through Washington D.C. was passed when a single party was in control. Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, Republicans passed the Sherman Anti-trust Act and got the 16th Amendment (income tax) through, Democrats passed the New Deal and Great Society, Republicans passed the Patriot Act, and Democrats passed Obamacare. This could be what happens when a large majority ends up in power in D.C. Lord Acton wrote, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” but, more importantly, “Liberty consists in the division of power. Absolutism, in concentration of power.”
This means gridlock is a double-edged sword when it comes to freedom and liberty issues. It would be amazing for a Republican-led Congress, with a Republican president, to sit down and get issues like justice, health care, and tax reform all done at once (as long as it swings more towards free markets), plus spending cuts. Gridlock makes this nigh impossible, but it doesn’t mean the fight isn’t worth undertaking. It does mean the “right kind” of Republican needs to be in office. This means making sure the GOP is led by people who actually care about freedom and liberty, and want to give more power to the individual instead of the collective. It means finding politicians who do more than give lip service to the Constitution and putting them in power. It also means keeping them accountable. It’s a simple solution, I know, but one that’s worth doing. It just depends on how many cats can be herded. McConnell may have an ambitious agenda for 2016, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. Gridlock can be a real problem, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing.