Trump is right -- McConnell should shut down Democratic obstruction in the Senate

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., needs to go nuclear – now. That’s rumored to be the pitch from President Trump when he meets with Senate Republicans Tuesday, and the president is correct.

There’s an election coming up and Republicans are furious that their hard-won majorities in the House and the Senate have earned them few rewards. Where is the progress on infrastructure? Where is the fix to immigration? What about health care? Voters want results and they aren’t getting them. The Senate majority leader could fix that.

Voters don’t know it, but there’s plenty of popular and productive legislation that has moved forward over the past few months in the House. At the Milken Conference in California this year, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., talked about hundreds of bills – many receiving robust bipartisan support –  that have passed his chamber this year but died in the Senate.

For example, the House Judiciary Committee recently approved a bill offering education and vocational training to low-level drug offenders. The measure, called the First Step Act, had both Democratic and Republican co-sponsors, and passed out of committee on a 25-5 vote. What next? If the bill wins passage in the full House, it will most likely languish in the Senate.

At some level, what Schumer and his fellow Democrats are doing becomes unpatriotic. It is time to put a stop to this destructive obstruction. President Trump is right – McConnell should go nuclear.

According to a visibly frustrated Ryan, many of the bills passed by the House are commonsense fixes to existing legislation, or much-needed repairs to federal agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration. Many have strong bipartisan backing. These are not politically difficult votes to take; they are for the good of the country. But they will not see the light of day unless McConnell changes the rules.

Democrats have successfully blocked progress, not only for Republicans, but for the country. The upper chamber is stuck, thanks to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Schumer has effectively cut off consideration of new legislation by demanding the maximum 30 hours of debate on nominees hoping to join the Trump administration. That leaves little time for other matters, like moving the nation forward.

It’s time to call a halt to this obstruction. McConnell can do it by expediting consideration of remaining nominees, thus clearing the way for other pressing matters.

The Rules Committee in the Senate has already made a tentative move in that direction, passing along party lines a change to cap the hours of debate on proposed hires at eight instead of the current 30. That measure, of course, requires 60 votes to take effect. McConnell should dispense with the formalities and just go nuclear, requiring a simple majority vote on remaining appointees.

The Senate, true to form, is mired in a debate over who started the slow-walking of candidates. Democrats claim the high moral ground, whispering “Merrick Garland” to make their case.

Garland, of course, was President Obama’s third pick for the Supreme Court, on whose nomination Senate Republicans refused to allow a vote. Republicans counter that the Democrats started it, by going to a simple majority in 2013 in order to approve President Obama’s executive branch and judicial nominees.

It doesn’t matter! Americans don’t care about the niceties of Senate protocol – they want action! 

Democrats, led by Schumer, think that their “resistance” will fend off progressive challengers and win back disgruntled voters, but it isn’t clear that their steadfast opposition is working.

The so-called “generic ballot’ for the November elections has shown the Democratic lead shrinking in recent months, as the Trump White House touts the booming economy and efforts to level the field for American companies trading overseas.

At the end of last year, voters preferred Democrats over the GOP by a margin of 13 points, according to Real Clear Politics. Today that lead has shrunk to five points, and some polls have the two parties effectively tied.

McConnell is loath to be the fellow who tosses revered Senate procedures under the bus; we can sympathize. The Senate is a hallowed institution. He is also concerned, as are some conservative pundits, that the GOP will in the future rue the day Republican senators open the floodgates to majority rule. They warn: what about when Democrats take over, and Republicans are in the minority?

Who are they kidding? Do they honestly think Democrats would even hesitate to change the rules if they think it will boost their position? There is no nobility on the other side of the aisle.

Democrats have slimed any number of exceptional Americans nominated for roles in the Trump administration (see nominee for CIA director Gina Haspel). Democrats have lied routinely about, among other things, how the GOP tax bill would hurt the middle class. And Democrats have furthered salacious speculation about President Trump’s campaign colluding with Russia. Assuming the Democrats would abide by polite convention is a non-starter.

As important, if he does nothing McConnell will effect do just what the GOP fears most – hand the House and maybe even the Senate over to Democrats.

Republicans today have a dim view of Congress, in part because so little of their wish-list has been accomplished.  They may not turn out in the fall or support GOP candidates unless they see more rewards for doing so.

It is not enough for McConnell to patiently explain that Senate procedures allow Schumer to block consideration of legislation, or that, faced with having to make hard choices about how to allocate floor time, he is prioritizing the appointment of judges and confirmation of nominees that he considers most urgent.

Voters feel that if there are not enough days for Congress to get the job done, Congress should stay in session until the work of the people – the work members were elected and are paid to do – is completed. The problem with that is that for the party in power, releasing members to campaign for re-election is vital, even though many are retiring this year.

At some level, what Schumer and his fellow Democrats are doing becomes unpatriotic. It is time to put a stop to this destructive obstruction. President Trump is right – McConnell should go nuclear.