Mitch McConnell's Grand Guignol performance in the Senate
The Grand Guignol was a theater in Paris in the first half of the 20th century that specialized in amoral horror entertainment. On Tuesday, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) gave his own version of the Grand Guignol when he rained fire and brimstone on the Senate, detailing the horrors Democrats would suffer if they were to do away with the 215-year-old filibuster. He knew that his speech was meaningless because he already gave the filibuster away in January. Once it's gone, Republicans will never again have the power to take revenge on the Democrats.
Back in January, I wrote about how Mitch McConnell pre-emptively gave away the filibuster. He agreed to Chuck Schumer's demand regarding Senate rules that, in the 50-50 Senate, there would be "power sharing" (hah!) in exchange for Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema promising not to ditch the filibuster, which has been part of the Senate rules of operation since 1806. While Sinema is something of a maverick and might be trustworthy, Joe Manchin, after pretending to stand strong, always sides with the Senate majority.
On Tuesday, McConnell was back again talking a big game on the filibuster. What triggered him was that Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) was caught on a hot mic telling transportation secretary Pete (he likes to play with toy trains) Buttigieg that Democrats were planning to pass an infrastructure bill and were going to do it without Republican votes. The presumption is that Cardin said this because he knew that the Democrats were going to move to end the filibuster — that is, he knew that Sinema and Manchin were reneging on their promise to McConnell.
As the New York Sun explains, McConnell got angry. In many ways, he delivered a stellar defense of the filibuster:
Mr. McConnell responded today with a prediction of the kind rarely heard in the upper chamber. "Let me say this very clearly, for all 99 of my colleagues," the Kentuckian rasped. "Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin — can even begin — to imagine what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like. None of us has even served one minute in a Senate that was completely drained of comity and consent."
McConnell quoted Chuck Schumer's words about the filibuster's importance, as well as Senator Dick Durbin's warning that ending the filibuster would be the end of the Senate as the Founding Fathers had imagined it. The filibuster, said McConnell, is an important doctrine that forces senators to discuss issues and compromise rather than to slam laws through with the brute force of a simple majority.
He pointed out that it is very unlikely that Americans, even those who actually voted for Joe Biden, wanted a less stable, more divisive form of government. He explained that what Democrats were planning would "break the Senate" by making every single Senate vote a nightmare.
All the above sounds good, so what's the problem? Well, the problem is threefold. First, as noted, McConnell is relying on two very slender (and possibly already broken) reeds to keep the filibuster in place. Second, the Democrats do not care about tradition, the balance of power, comity, or stability. Third, the only real threat McConnell made is an empty one:
McConnell also warned that Democrats would face a starkly conservative agenda on labor, energy, abortion rights, border security and gun ownership in 2022, if Republicans regained the majority in the Senate with the filibuster no longer in place.
"We wouldn't just erase every liberal change that hurt the country. We'd strengthen America with all kinds of conservative policies with zero — zero — input from the other side," he said.
McConnell knows, as does every Democrat Senator, that once the Democrats pass H.R. 1, which opens an express lane to Democrat fraud in elections; end the filibuster; fast-track citizenship for all the illegal aliens in America (possibly more than 10% of our population); pack the Supreme Court; and add Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. as new states, there will never again be a two-party system in America. It is laughable to think that the Republicans could one day regain power.
In other words, McConnell's speech was the Grand Guignol. It was a big portrayal of horror, but it was merely theater.
One last thing: Nothing would delight me more than to learn that everything I predicted here is wrong. Senators McConnell, Sinema, and Manchin, please prove me wrong. Make me eat my words. Please!
Image: Mitch McConnell. YouTube screen grab.