“After he voted to acquit Donald Trump of inciting the Capitol riot, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) explained why the former president was guilty. McConnell explained the apparent contradiction by arguing that the Senate does not have the authority to try a former president. But as he conceded, that is “a very close question,” and McConnell’s rationale for his vote is puzzling in light of what he did after the House voted to impeach Trump a month ago. McConnell’s mixed message reflects the predicament of a party that has built its identity around a reckless, unprincipled demagogue whose influence will continue to weigh down Republicans for years to come.
“Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty,” McConnell said in a Senate floor speech on Saturday after seven of his fellow Republicans joined 50 Democrats in voting to convict. “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth. The issue is not only the president’s intemperate language on January 6th….It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe—the increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was being stolen in some secret coup by our now-president.”
McConnell rejected the notion that Trump’s rhetoric was typical of the language commonly used by politicians and that it is therefore unreasonable to blame him because some of his supporters took him more literally than he intended. “The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things,” he said. “Sadly, many politicians sometimes make overheated comments or use metaphors that unhinged listeners might take literally. This was different. This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories, orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”
McConnell also noted that Trump’s “unconscionable behavior” continued after the riot started: “Whatever our ex-president claims he thought might happen that day, whatever reaction he says he meant to produce, by that afternoon, he was watching the same live television as the rest of the world. A mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags, and screaming their loyalty to him. It was obvious that only President Trump could end this. Former aides publicly begged him to do so. Loyal allies frantically called the administration. But the president did not act swiftly. He did not do his job. He didn’t take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed, and order restored.”
To the contrary, “according to public reports, he watched television happily as the chaos unfolded. He kept pressing his scheme to overturn the election! Even after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President Pence was in danger, even as the mob carrying Trump banners was beating cops and breaching perimeters, the president sent a further tweet attacking his vice president. Predictably and foreseeably under the circumstances, members of the mob seemed to interpret this as further inspiration to lawlessness and violence.”
While Trump urged his supporters to “stay peaceful” in a tweet he posted an hour and 45 minutes after the riot began, McConnell noted, “he did not tell the mob to depart until even later”—more than three hours after the protest turned violent. “Even then,” McConnell said, “with police officers bleeding and broken glass covering Capitol floors, he kept repeating election lies and praising the criminals.”
McConnell’s indictment of Trump, which elaborated on his previous criticism of the former president’s conspiracy mongering and his role in provoking the riot, could have come straight out of the arguments made by the House managers charged with prosecuting the former president. Why did McConnell nevertheless vote to acquit Trump?
“Former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction,” McConnell said. “There is no doubt this is a very close question. Donald Trump was the president when the House voted, though not when the House chose to deliver the papers. Brilliant scholars argue both sides of the jurisdictional question. The text is legitimately ambiguous. I respect my colleagues who have reached either conclusion. But after intense reflection, I believe the best constitutional reading shows that Article II, Section 4 exhausts the set of persons who can legitimately be impeached, tried, or convicted: the president, vice president, and civil officers. We have no power to convict and disqualify a former officeholder who is now a private citizen.””
“McConnell’s compromise seems to be aimed at appeasing the majority of Americans who supported Trump’s impeachment without alienating the majority of Republicans who did not.”
“Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is no longer holding up the Senate organizing resolution — after two Democrats confirmed that they won’t be blowing up the legislative filibuster any time soon.
In the past few weeks, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and McConnell have been working to negotiate the organizing resolution — which governs committee membership and funding allocation — in the 50-50 Senate. The leaders had previously been at an impasse because McConnell had demanded that Democrats commit to keeping the legislative filibuster intact as part of the resolution — something Schumer was unwilling to do, since it would reduce the party’s leverage in negotiations over future legislation.
Since the organizing resolution could be filibustered — and would need 60 votes to pass — McConnell’s opposition effectively allowed him to block the measure from advancing.
And while he didn’t get the changes to the organizing resolution he wanted, McConnell’s approach still worked, in a way: Amid the impasse over the agreement, two Senate Democrats — Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) — publicly restated that they would not vote to eliminate the filibuster. Without their backing, Democrats simply won’t have the numbers to do a rules change: All 50 members of the caucus would need to get behind a change to the filibuster for it to happen. (This position is consistent with stances both lawmakers have vocalized before.)”
“Twelve of President Ronald Reagan’s nominees were confirmed in his first two days in office, as were 13 of President Bill Clinton’s nominees, seven of President George W. Bush’s, and nine of President Barack Obama’s. President Donald Trump’s cabinet was confirmed more slowly, but the Senate still respected the tradition of holding confirmation hearings prior to Trump’s inauguration.
But so far, no hearings have been held on President-elect Joe Biden’s nominees — meaning Biden could face a serious delay in getting his administration ready to begin governing.
The Senate, which will still be led by Mitch McConnell for a little over a week, is currently out of session and will remain out of session until January 19, the day before President-elect Joe Biden takes office (technically, the Senate will hold brief “pro forma” sessions on the 12th and the 15th, but no business is conducted at these sessions).
As CNN’s Kylie Atwood notes, this is the first time in at least 10 presidential transitions where the incoming president’s nominee to be secretary of state won’t even have a confirmation hearing before that president’s Inauguration Day. And it’s unclear whether any hearings will be held before the Senate is scheduled to reconvene on January 19.”
“Section 230 essentially functions as the internet’s First Amendment by protecting private companies from being held liable for most forms of user-generated content. This is the second time in very recent history that lawmakers have sought to sneak Section 230 changes into legislation that otherwise has nothing to do with Section 230.”
“Section 230 has attracted bipartisan enmity, although for completely different reasons: Republican critics say that online giants such as Facebook and Twitter are too heavy-handed with content moderation, at least when it comes to conservative speech, while their Democratic counterparts want platforms to scrub more hate speech and fake news. 230’s critics range from Sen. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, though one wonders if either would be happy with the result of the rollback once the other party was in power.
McConnell’s bill would also create a committee to investigate election fraud and the impact of COVID-19 on voting practices, as Trump keeps pushing the conspiracy theory that President-elect Joe Biden stole the 2020 election.”
“Rep. Paul Mitchell (R–Mich.), a retiring congressman who congratulated Biden on November 7, announced yesterday that he was “disaffiliating from the Republican Party” out of disgust at its humoring of Trump’s increasingly desperate explanations for losing the election. “The president and his legal team have failed to provide substantive evidence of fraud or administrative failure on a scale large enough to impact the outcome of the election,” Mitchell wrote in a letter to Republican Nation Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel. “It is unacceptable for political candidates to treat our election system as though we are a third-world nation and incite distrust of something so basic as the sanctity of our vote….If Republican leaders collectively sit back and tolerate unfounded conspiracy theories and ‘stop the steal’ rallies without speaking out for our electoral process, which the Department of Homeland Security said was ‘the most secure in American history,’ our nation will be damaged….With the leadership of the Republican Party and our Republican conference in the House actively participating in at least some of these efforts, I fear long-term harm to our democracy.””
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top Republican lawmakers on Monday refused to recognize Joe Biden as the president-elect, defending President Donald Trump as he continues to launch unsubstantiated allegations about widespread voter fraud.
McConnell, like many other Senate Republicans, neither repeated Trump’s false claims that Democrats are trying to “rig” and “steal” the election, nor publicly pressured the president to concede. Their reluctance to recognize Biden’s victory two days after he secured enough Electoral College votes highlights the grip that Trump still holds on the GOP, even as he will likely soon be leaving the White House. For now, they’re sticking with the president”
“Trump has continued to assert that there were widespread irregularities in several states but has so far provided no evidence. He falsely claimed on Twitter that he won the election, even as Biden on Saturday secured the necessary 270 electoral votes to win the White House, according to numerous media projections. The president has even suggested the election was “stolen” from him, but his campaign has lost several court fights already.”
“Senate Republicans said they expect the disputes to be resolved sooner rather than later. One GOP senator, speaking on condition of anonymity to candidly describe the party’s thinking, said “most people recognize where this is headed and that clearly Biden is leading in enough states to win, but let’s not rush the process.”
So far, only four Republican senators — Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Susan Collins of Maine — have acknowledged Biden’s victory and referred to him as the president-elect.
But like McConnell, most Senate Republicans have refused to publicly acknowledge that Biden will become the next president, even though they admit that’s going to happen in private. While Biden is already aggressively planning his transition to power, GOP senators are deferring to the Trump campaign’s pending legal challenges to the election results in various battleground states.”
“Even as Biden’s team is preparing for the transfer of power, a top political appointee in the Trump administration is thus far refusing to officially certify Biden as the president-elect. Such a declaration is necessary in order to kick-start the presidential transition process; specifically, it would unlock resources for Biden’s team, including federal funding and access to the federal agencies that will need staffing.
Republicans largely declined to weigh in on whether the appointee, General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy, should certify Biden as the winner, though Collins went as far as to say that Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris “should be given every opportunity to ensure that they are ready to govern” when they take office on Jan. 20.”
“Republicans know such aid is necessary just as well as Democrats. They say in the press that these are concessions, things they are giving up, but why should anyone else adopt that absurd framing?
By theatrically “conceding” money for hospitals, Republicans get the optics of a bipartisan achievement while ensuring that they define the limits of the possible.
Now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying that it wasn’t a concession at all to give up funding for states, that governors are just being “impatient,” and that the next stimulus bill will contain state and local aid “in a big way.” She envisions a thoughtful, phased approach, based on demonstrated need. But there’s little reason to think Republicans will cooperate.
Think back to the debt ceiling fight of 2011. Raising the debt ceiling was also something every independent analyst agreed was necessary to keep the economy healthy. But Republicans framed it as a Democratic ask, something for which they could extract enormous concessions. They were entirely willing to gamble with the economy.”
“When Democrats pushed for state aid and McConnell suggested that it was a “blue state bailout,” an attempt to rescue fiscally irresponsible blue-state governors who had let their pension obligations get too large, he knew full well that it was bullshit. There is no moral hazard in a pandemic. There’s no point means testing states. It’s not a reward to states to bolster their budgets when consumers are literally being told by the government to stay home. It’s one reason the federal government exists.
And red states need money too — there are, after all, red-state governors pleading for help.
It makes no sense, but McConnell’s not trying to make sense. He’s just trying to put Dems on the defensive and force them to fight for the basics. He wants to frame state aid as a concession to Democrats and send a signal to the right-wing base that Democrats are up to something shady. He doesn’t give a rat’s ass about pension obligations. This is a 1,000 percent cynical maneuver. (Now Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has picked up this nonsense and run with it.)
The same goes for McConnell’s sudden concern that stimulus spending might raise the deficit too much.
More than almost any other purported GOP principle, deficit concern comes and goes depending on the party’s immediate interests. It was nowhere to be found in 2017 when McConnell’s own Congress passed a giant tax cut for corporations that will add $2.6 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years. It was nowhere to be found when Trump ran up the deficit, or when George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, or Ronald Reagan ran up the deficit.”
“for the last 15 years, McConnell has heard pundits tell him that it’s risky to obstruct too much, attack too hard, violate norms too flagrantly, or act too openly against the national interest for partisan gain. Pundits wring their hands endlessly about such things.
Democrats have heard and internalized those messages. They worry about how they look to the media and political class. But McConnell has completely ignored them, and it has redounded to his benefit again and again.
When he refused to hold confirmation hearings on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016, everyone in the political ecosystem (outside of conservative media) warned him of the dangers, the grave risk to comity and tradition and institutional integrity. He blew them all off. For his troubles, he got Brett Kavanaugh.
(Last month, McConnell said that he would happily hold a confirmation vote on a Trump Supreme Court nominee, even in the last year of a Trump presidency. Critics accused him of hypocrisy. He didn’t care.)
McConnell used the filibuster to block everything Obama tried, and then when Democrats killed the judicial filibuster, he used that to pack the federal bench, winning on both sides.”
“It’s pretty hard to find any important issue that he hasn’t switched positions on at some point or another when it was convenient for him. Whether it’s abortion or campaign spending or many other issues, he just switches like a chameleon when he needs to and I hadn’t really realized how many times he’s done this and how easily he did it.”
“I interviewed one of McConnell’s biographers, Alec MacGillis, and he pointed to the same thing: There’s just no consistent commitment to anything in McConnell’s political life except for winning the next election.”