Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, when asked about the direction of the Republican Party and the right’s attacks on Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), said on Wednesday that he and his party are “100 percent” focused on blocking the Biden administration.
“One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” McConnell said. “I think the best way to look at what this new administration is: The president may have won the nomination, but [Sen.] Bernie Sanders won the argument.”
The senator has said before that he plans to fight Democrats and progressives on their agenda, though the recent comment was a more direct representation of his stated goals. Ironically, within the same press conference, McConnell also said that he wanted to pass an infrastructure package on a bipartisan basis — as long it was based on the Republicans’ plan.
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While McConnell has declared that Republicans will stand united in opposition to the Democrats’ infrastructure plan, he claimed Wednesday that the massively watered-down plan offered by his party could garner Democratic support and would thus be a “bipartisan” offer that his party could go for.
In reality, many political commentators have noted that the people acting as a roadblock to bipartisanship are the Republicans, and McConnell’s own comments are reflective of that. As columnist Eugene Robinson noted in February for The Washington Post, “Bipartisanship is nice, but you can’t negotiate with fantasy and lies.”
Though President Joe Biden has only been in office for a few months, Republicans have already put the absurdity of their cries of “bipartisanship” on display multiple times. They stand opposed to the pay-fors offered by Democrats for the infrastructure package, for instance, but refuse to pass a bill that isn’t paid for; and so far, their only offering toward dealing with the fallout from the pandemic have been more tax cuts — ones that even the usually staid Politico calls “mostly unrealistic.”
President Biden immediately dismissed McConnell’s comments on Wednesday, saying, “[McConnell] said that about the last administration — about Barack [Obama], that [McConnell] was going to stop everything — and I was able to get a lot done with him.”
Indeed, McConnell gained a reputation while he was Senate majority leader during the Obama administration for blocking everything that Obama and the Democrats put forth with a legislative weapon: the Senate filibuster. Use of the filibuster has skyrocketed in modern times, partially thanks to McConnell’s repeated and skillful use of it.
The knowledge that the filibuster is one of McConnell’s only tools left in a Democratically controlled Congress and White House is likely why he has threatened to go “scorched earth” on the Senate if Democrats get rid of the archaic rule.
Meanwhile, many of the Democrats’ proposals, like the $15 minimum wage, infrastructure plan and coronavirus relief checks, poll well with a wide swath of the public, including Republicans — a fact that throws a wrench into GOP lawmakers’ cries for “unity.”
This is perhaps part of why political commentators say that, while Republicans might say their stated purpose is to block Democrats, in reality, they’re fighting against democracy itself; Sen. Alex Padilla (D-California) said as much on Wednesday.
“Mitch McConnell just admitted that 100 percent of his focus is on obstruction. And with the filibuster, he can exercise a veto over the will of the majority,” tweeted Padilla. “We can’t keep letting one person who’s hell-bent on standing in the way of progress also stand in the way of democracy.”