Stop McConnell's Senate Steal

McConnell has single-handedly overturned an election in order to hurt Biden (and America)

Next week, Donald Trump will be on trial for inciting a violent insurrection to overturn the results of the election. One of the jurors in that trial will be Mitch McConnell.

The irony of McConnell’s participation is that he has succeeded where Trump failed.

Two weeks ago, Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock, and Kamala Harris were sworn into their respective positions. At that point, Democrats had 50 Senators and the Vice Presidential tie breaking vote to give them control of the Senate for the first time since 2014. But Democrats are not yet in charge of the Senate. Mitch McConnell is still ostensibly in control and Republicans are still chairing the committees.

McConnell is holding onto power by filibustering the passage of the organizing resolution that is necessary to establish committee assignments and begin the session. Originally, McConnell was trying to extract a pledge from the Democrats to preserve the filibuster. While he failed to get the pledge, the issue was resolved when Senators Sinema and Manchin pledged to keep the filibuster (Democrats need all 50 to agree to get rid of yet). More than a week later, McConnell still hasn’t agreed to the organizing resolution and Democrats still aren’t in charge. This standoff has received relatively little press attention. The limited coverage has treated it as a procedural squabble. McConnell isn’t engaging in typical political gamesmanship. This is an unprecedented authoritarian power grab to cripple Biden’s presidency and no less of a coup than what Trump tried last month.

Time Matters

From the very first moments of Barack Obama’s Presidency, Mitch McConnell’s goal in his own words was to make Obama a “one-term President.” He did everything in his power to prevent Obama from addressing the financial crisis ravaging the American economy in the hopes that Republican would reap rewards at the ballot box. While McConnell failed to make Obama a one-term President and it took him three tries to take control of the Senate, his obstruction wrecked havoc on the economy and in people’s lives.

It’s clear that with Joe Biden in the White House with another crisis to address, McConnell is up to his old tricks again.

Time is the only non-renewable resource in politics. A Presidential term lasts 1461 days. Every single one of them matters. You never get them back. The first 100 days are the most valuable. It is when Presidents have the most political capital and the greatest hold on the nation’s attention. It is their best chance to enact their agenda. Every day is a little less valuable than the one that preceded it.

McConnell is very well aware of this dynamic, which is why he is slow walking the organizing resolution. He has already stolen 14 of Biden’s first 100 days — in the middle of a pandemic and in the wake of an insurrection.

The consequences of the power grab became even more clear yesterday. Lindsey Graham who is still illegitimately squatting as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that he would not schedule a hearing for Merrick Garland, Biden’s nominee to be Attorney General. If a Democrat were chairing the committee, as they rightly should, the hearing would have been scheduled weeks ago. Garland might already have even been confirmed. This is an outrageous abuse of stolen power and it cannot go unaddressed.

McConnell’s Rationale

Mitch McConnell is the most dangerous and destructive Senator since Joe McCarthy. There is no norm he won’t trample or rule he won’t break in the search for political power. But even for McConnell, this is an extreme abuse. He is single-handedly overturning the results of the election. While McConnell would damage democracy for the same reason a child pulls the wings off a fly, this transgression has a very specific purpose.

McConnell has his eye on the 2022 elections. Republicans have to contend with a brutal map. They have to defend two open seats (Pennsylvania and North Carolina) and two morons (Johnson and Rubio).

Just like in 2009, McConnell believes the worse off the country, the better his political prospects. Once again, he is doing everything he can to prevent Biden from fixing the economy and controlling the pandemic — including using the filibuster to prevent the Democrats from being in a position to advance Biden’s agenda.

What Dems Can Do

Democrats don’t have to take this sitting down. They have options:

  • Scream from the Rooftops: This power grab is getting limited attention because Democrats have done very little to draw attention to it. We are well past the time to raise holy hell about what is happening. It is beyond the pale. Public pressure won’t mount on its own. Senator Dick Durbin gave a very good speech on this yesterday, but Democrats can and must do more. Joe Biden and his team have a lot on their plate (to say the least), but at some point they may need to use the White House bully pulpit on this issue.

  • Change the Rules: Fifty Democratic Senators could change the rules to prohibit using the filibuster on the organizing resolution. This would be a minor change that wouldn’t change the outdated Senate traditions about which some (mistaken) Democrats are so concerned. Manchin very unhelpfully took this idea of the table last week, but maybe he will be willing to revisit it if the delay continues.

  • Pressure Other Republicans: Ten Republicans went to the White House for a meeting on Monday night in a theoretical good faith effort to find compromise on COVID relief. Ten is also the exact number of Republicans that Democrats would need to overcome a filibuster of the organizing resolution. In general, Republicans are running around shedding crocodile tears about unity while engaging in an extraordinary legislative abuse of power. They need to be called out and face questions from Capitol reporters and their home state media. They need to feel the pressure of local businesses and leaders.

Mitch McConnell will eventually have to fold, but the longer he holds out the more damage he does. If he doesn’t pay a price for his conduct, he will continue to normalize election theft as part of the Republican playbook — and that’s something we might not come back from.