Skip to main content

U.S. Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listens during remarks about leadership elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 16, 2010.   REUTERS/Jim Young
I'm not entirely sure I buy this. The premise is that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been standing down on big fights like the Republican vow to filibuster gun legislation, and that means:
This fits a pattern seen increasingly since mid-February: McConnell steadfast in opposition even as his rank-and-file cross the aisle, raising fragile hopes of a bipartisan revival.

Without overstating, it’s a record that suggests a real shift as the Kentucky Republican has seemed to turn his attention single-mindedly to protecting his right flank at home where he faces re-election next year.

It's a stretch and a half to call a few bare closure votes a "shift," and in particular I know I don't buy the "bipartisan revival" bit. If the primary symptom of a "bipartisan revival" is that Republicans can't muster up complete caucus unity on a gun-protection-based filibuster that is (1) deemed a crackpot move by many, many voters and (2) not even the main battleground on this particular bit of legislation, that's a fairly ridiculous thing for anyone to start pinning their hopes on.

It is true, though, that McConnell has shown little control of his party—but it's the right flank that he has no control over, and that's not something that just started last February. The battle between Republicans consists entirely over what to block, and the two choices appear to be "everything" versus "everything, multiple times over." McConnell drifts between one or the other opportunistically, depending on mood and who's doing the fighting.

The truer read might be this:

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), seem bent on countering what many Republicans see as the outsized influence of the tea party star — Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — on McConnell.
Forget the McConnell part; you can safely say that the party bigwigs have indeed been peeved at the sudden and rather inexplicable stardom of Ron Paul's nutty and singularly unaccomplished scion. The flighty, unpredictable faction of the base that has elevated Paul, of all people, has already been causing them no end of trouble—the tea partiers, that is—and establishment types like Karl Rove have been fairly blunt about needing to blunt the influence of this new, giddily extremist group. They've got the knives out on this one.

I think McConnell's absence on some of these fights can be seen not merely as preoccupation with an upcoming election back home, but as a definite slight towards the far-right faction; he's not working against them, but neither is he going to much effort to prop their sillier schemes up, allowing the McCains and Grahams and Shelbys of the party to scuttle the more controversial things without he himself having to lift a finger. True, he has plausible deniability in either direction, back home, but that may just be the frosting on the cake. No politician likes to take on an intraparty fight if they don't have to, and right now he doesn't have to.

On the various closure votes cited by Politico as evidence of a turning bipartisan tide (Hagel, Brennan and the 6-month continuing resolution), each were largely political theater with foregone conclusions; the far more remarkable outcome would have been if Republican extremists were able to corrupt even those votes, which would have turned the already-nonfunctional Senate into a one-room dystopia. I hope we're not so far gone as to take the inability of the Republican far-right minority to block absolutely everything the Senate does as "hope" of anything.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site