If anyone’s ready to turn the page on September, it’s Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The last few weeks haven’t exactly been kind to the Kentucky senator, who watched his own party set fire to the latest GOP health care repeal, blew millions of dollars on a losing effort in Alabama’s Senate runoff, and got blamed for all of it by Donald Trump. “He’s got his hands full,” said Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) in the understatement of the year.
But lately, Republicans are wondering if the party’s fate should be in his hands in the first place. After days of disappointments, voters aren’t the only ones peeved by the Senate leadership’s inability to move the conservative agenda forward. So are some Members of Congress. In the House, where leaders have kept up their end of the Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, tax, and budget bargains, “frustrating” doesn’t begin to describe members’ feelings. Despite their differences, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has managed to send key bills to the Senate only to watch them die at the hands of a divided and disorganized caucus. After 10 years as the GOP’s top dog, some Republicans are saying it’s time for McConnell to call it quits.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker (R-N.C.) didn’t beat around the bush with his criticism, insisting earlier today that it’s in the party’s best interest for the Kentucky senator to retire. “I think he’s a huge part of the problem,” the RSC chief told NBC. “There’s a growing consensus that would be very happy if the fine senator from Kentucky called it a career.” McConnell’s counterpart wasn’t as blunt as Walker, but even Speaker Ryan was clear that tensions between the two chambers had hit a boiling point. “We’re really frustrated,” he told reporters. “Look,” he went on, “we passed 373 bills here in the House [and] 270-some are still in the Senate.” No wonder they’re irritated. The House’s pace is blowing past the marks it set in the Obama, Clinton, and both Bush administrations.
On his side of the Capitol, McConnell’s party is circling the wagons. “Mitch is sort of the symbol of our dysfunction,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, “but it’s not about Mitch, it’s about all of us.” Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson (R) pointed out the difficulty of the Leader’s job. “It’s hard herding cats. I don’t envy him his task, okay?” Few do. But leaders are chosen to rise above those challenges and unite their party. Senator McConnell has had a decade as the chamber’s top Republican to prove that he can. I respect McConnell, but there’s no excuse for faltering now — not when the GOP has the keys to Congress and the White House.
The Senate has been a graveyard for almost every promise made to voters. It’s time for a radical overhaul. And if Republicans won’t do it — voters will.
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.
Also in the September 29 Washington Update:
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