Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has never been a favorite of conservatives. Those who see him as a “squishy” compromiser more interested in placating President Barack Obama and K Street lobbyists than the Republican base had more fuel tossed on that fire when he blocked amendments to the Highway Bill Tea Party members wholeheartedly support.
One amendment would defund Planned Parenthood, the nationwide abortion provider which receives more than a half billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies annually. McConnell has previously said he supports defunding Planned Parenthood, which was recently the subject of undercover sting videos in which executives with the organization can be heard discussing the sale of organs from aborted babies. But the leader blocked an amendment to the Highway Bill that would have defunded the organization.
McConnell used a tactic called “filling the tree,” made popular by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid when he was majority leader to block Republicans from being able to offer amendments to Democratic bills. “Filling the Tree” is when the allotted time for amendments is loaded by the leader, generally with small, insignificant measures favored by the majority leader, who controls the process, crowding out everyone else.
“Filling the tree” was roundly decried by Republicans when Democrats controlled the Senate because it blocked their ability to offer any amendments, popular on a bipartisan basis or not, to any legislation the Senate was considering. McConnell ran and was reelected to his Senate seat on returning the Senate to “regular order” after years of tight control and power consolidation under the Democrats. Now he is using the same tactic against his own party.
On the floor of the Senate Friday, Texas Sen. and GOP candidate for president Ted Cruz blasted McConnell’s move. “There are a host of amendments that the American people are focused on, things like defunding Planned Parenthood after the gruesome video,” Cruz said. “The majority leader doesn’t want to vote on that. That’s actually something the American people are focused on.”
In response to critics, McConnell agreed to “fast-track” a stand-alone bill that would defund Planned Parenthood. But a stand-alone bill would be subject to filibuster, requiring 60 votes to proceed, rather than as an amendment that would only need 50 to be included in the Highway Bill.
According to The Hill, McConnell ruled the Planned Parenthood amendment not germane to the Highway Bill and that’s why it was blocked.
McConnell apparently made the same determination for “Kate’s Law.” Named after Kate Steinle, a 32-year-old woman who was allegedly shot and killed by an illegal alien who had seven felony convictions and had been deported five times in San Francisco, it would impose a mandatory five-year prison term on any illegal alien convicted of a violent felony if they’d been previously deported.
McConnell blocked that too.
An amendment the Majority Leader did not block he did not rule as “not germane” was the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.
The Export-Import Bank, which McConnell publicly claims to oppose, is viewed by conservatives as corporate welfare and crony capitalism at its worst. Supposedly to help small businesses compete in a global market, the bank favors large and even foreign companies with taxpayer dollars.
Cloture was invoked by the Senate on the amendment to reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank by a vote of 67-26 on Sunday.
Authorization for the bank expired in June, and an enormous, expensive lobbying effort has been underway to reauthorize it.
In an attempt to placate conservatives, McConnell instead is allowing a vote on an amendment to defund Obamacare. But that amendment would need 60 votes, which is unlikely, and would most certainly get the bill a presidential veto.