McConnell should stop enabling the president
The front-page story and photo in The Day of Coast Guard families in New London collecting donated food to feed their families during a federal government shutdown should compel you to outrage.
What does it say about a country whose government cannot provide funding to support the military people who defend our shores? How much government dysfunction must we endure before Congress finds the fortitude to reclaim its constitutional position as an equal branch of government?
Where are you, Mitch McConnell?
The Republican Senate Majority Leader has been the Nowhere Man as the shutdown grinds on over a deadlock between the majority House Democrats and the mercurial President Donald Trump.
Republicans are feeling political heat from the capricious and often contradictory White House negotiation strategy. The country is blaming Trump and his Republican supplicants as the shutdown continues in its fourth week.
As the food pantry photo at the Coast Guard Academy painfully demonstrates, Americans are suffering from the ineptitude that triggered the shutdown. More than 800,000 federal employees, including Coast Guard personnel, are laid off or working without pay.
McConnell, the cagy political mastermind who routinely upends Senate traditions to achieve his party’s goals, has gone AWOL as this Trump-inspired farce mutates into crisis.
McConnell says he will not bring a vote to the Senate floor to end the shutdown unless he has the unequivocal backing of Trump and leaders of both parties in the House and Senate.
McConnell is wary of exposing his fellow Senate Republicans to another Trump embarrassment. Before the shutdown Trump indicated he would veto legislation that had passed unanimously in the Senate to continue funding the government unless $5.6 billion was approved to construct a border wall.
Trump has dismissed multiple attempts to find common ground since the shutdown began. He stormed out of a meeting he arranged with congressional leaders minutes after the meeting started. Attempts to float three separate compromise solutions from Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), and Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, were belittled and rejected by Trump before the ideas were fully aired.
Trump’s reckless rhetoric and ever-shifting leadership by whimsy disqualify him as a reliable negotiating partner. Mitch McConnell knows this. That is why McConnell has retreated as a power player.
But McConnell must return to the forefront as the Senate’s master dealmaker. The ball is now in the Senate Republican court. They must coalesce around a tough compromise with House Democrats that can achieve a super majority vote in the Senate. That action will either force Trump to capitulate or face an override of his veto.
The makings of a deal have been kicking around Washington for more than a year and surfaced in several aborted attempts at bipartisan compromise. Those deal points are:
• Secure the future for 800,000 “dreamers,” immigrants who entered America illegally as children. Bi-partisan Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation was passed by Congress last year but rejected by Trump.
• Declare a moratorium on the Department of Homeland Security’s attempt to rescind the temporary protected status of tens of thousands of immigrants from several Central American countries who fled their homeland because of political oppression, armed conflict or economic collapse.
• Throw enough cash Trump’s way to allow his right-wing media fan club to declare victory. Democrats can call it money for border security, while Trump can call it what he wants. There are areas of the southern border that would benefit from new or improved security infrastructure.
Trump badly miscalculated the blowback from closing down 25 percent of the government. The standoff is hurting the GOP brand.
A majority of Americans blame Trump and the Republicans for the shutdown in every national poll. In a Washington Post-ABC poll, 53 percent blame Trump and the Republicans. Twenty-nine percent point to Democrats. Thirteen percent say both parties are to blame.
More than half of the respondents in all the national polls oppose building a border wall. Less than one-third believe a border wall is worth a government shutdown.
Those numbers have consequences for 2020 when 22 Senate Republicans will stand for re-election with President Trump, if he runs. The Democrats must defend only 12 Senate seats. Six of the contested Republican-held Senate seats are in states that trended Democratic in the 2018 mid-term elections.
If not for the integrity of the institution, then in a bow to political reality that this is hurting his party, McConnell should allow the Senate to reinstate its constitutional duty as a check on a presidency run amok.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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