Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Credit: Gage Skidmore/flickr

Over the weekend, Trump signed several memorandum (which he referred to as “bills” and others are calling “executive orders”) that are designed to signal that he actually cares about what is happening to Americans during this pandemic. I’ll let others discuss why they are not only unconstitutional, but ineffective, because I want to focus on what they tell us about the modern-day GOP.

Apparently Senate Majority Leader McConnell is fine with the president’s move to completely neuter congress. He issued a statement praising Trump’s memorandum, which is the opposite of what he said when Obama signed DACA.

“Look, as the president has said, democracy is hard,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after Obama proposed executive action on immigration in 2014. “Imposing his will unilaterally may seem tempting. It may serve him politically in the short term. But he knows it will make an already broken system even more broken.”

Knowing McConnell’s history under a Democratic president, this statement in response to Trump’s actions is a complete reversal.

The President’s team worked hard to bridge differences on many of the policies that would rapidly help American families…But Democrats have continued to block all of it while holding out for non-COVID-related liberal demands…

Weeks ago, some predicted that Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader Schumer might actually prefer if the American people received no further bipartisan aid before the election. Sadly, they have done nothing to suggest otherwise.

Just to be clear, a top priority for Democrats has been funding for state and local governments, whose budgets are being decimated by the pandemic. McConnell refers to such aid as a “non-COVID-related liberal demand.”

But beyond that, it is absolutely breath-taking to hear McConnell complain about the opposition party attempting to block legislation. For eight years we watched him obstruct anything Democrats tried to do—even stimulus funds in the midst of the Great Recession. The difference between then and now is that Pelosi and Schumer were at the table attempting to negotiate when Trump jumped the gun. All McConnell did in the past was to say “no,” without providing any alternatives.

There is also the fact that McConnell has already made it clear that if Biden wins the election in November, he will proceed to obstruct anything Democrats try to do.

“If I’m still the majority leader in the Senate think of me as the Grim Reaper. None of that stuff is going to pass,” McConnell said while speaking to community leaders in Owensboro, Ky…

“I guarantee you that if I’m the last man standing and I’m still the majority leader, it ain’t happening. I can promise you,” McConnell added.

So as McConnell praises Trump’s use of executive orders while Democrats attempt to negotiate, he accuses them of blocking legislation, even as he promises to be the Grim Reaper of obstruction if they win in November.

All of this reminds me of something Grover Norquist said back in 2003. While bragging about a “permanent Republican majority,” he was asked what the GOP would do if Democrats were elected. His response was to say that “We will make it so that a Democrat cannot govern as a Democrat.”

McConnell actually took that one step further. He seems intent on making it so that no one can actually govern. Not only does he attempt to obstruct anything Democrats want to do, he has been content to do nothing for the past four years as majority leader other than give rich people a tax break and stack the federal courts. Knowing that his party is heading for minority status, he’s made it clear that he wants the extremists he’s helped place on the federal courts for life to legislate from the bench.

The end result of McConnell’s efforts will be to completely neuter congress as a legislative body. The only way a president will be able to accomplish anything would be via executive order—which will go directly to the courts for judges to decide.

Given the undemocratic nature of the senate and our polarized political climate, it is very unlikely that either party will gain a supermajority in that body in the near future. If the only alternative is to allow McConnell to destroy the legislative process, it is probably time to end the filibuster and allow a simple majority to govern.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.