“I refuse to help Barack Obama get re-elected by marching Republicans into a position where we have ownership of a bad economy. ... If we go into default, he will say that Republicans are making the economy worse and try to convince the public — maybe with some merit, if people stop getting their Social Security checks and military families start getting letters saying service people overseas don’t get paid. It’s an argument he could have a good chance of winning, and all of the sudden we have co-ownership of a bad economy. ... That is very bad positioning going into an election.” — July 13, 2010, said right before the potential default, after months of fruitless negotiation.
“I think some of our Members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this — it’s a hostage worth ransoming.” — Said right after the deal was made.
“We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals. Because we thought — correctly, I think — that the only way the American people would know that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When you hang the ‘bipartisan’ tag on something, the perception is that differences have been worked out, and there’s a broad agreement that that’s the way forward.” — Said to the Atlantic in December 2010, after the midterms, explaining why Republicans from the start were not going to cooperate with or compromise with any of the Obama proposals.
Let’s add a January 2011 comment from former Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) about McConnell’s strategy during the Obama presidency: “McConnell knew the places to go, around the tank, and loosen a lug bolt here, pour sand in a hydraulic receptacle there, and slow the whole thing down.”
Now let’s add a few facts. After saying almost daily in 2009 that the route to a debt deal was to embrace the Gregg-Conrad Commission, a Senate effort to create a panel with real teeth, McConnell joined seven of his GOP colleagues in the Senate who had been original co-sponsors of Gregg-Conrad in voting to kill it via filibuster. I can find no other explanation than the comments made by McConnell to the Atlantic, above.
We have seen an unprecedented number of filibusters and filibuster threats, including on bills and nominations that ultimately passed unanimously or near unanimously. Nominations do not have amendments, so there were no amendment trees to fill. Multiple filibusters have been applied on motions to proceed and then bills where there was no effort to block GOP amendments by filling the amendment tree — just an effort, as Bennett describes it, to pour sand in and slow the whole thing down.
Call me an ultra, ultra liberal, call me irresponsible, you can call me Al, or any other descriptor or epithet. The quotes, and facts, speak for themselves.
Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.