Senate Democrats are getting ready to fire up the filibuster and make Mitch McConnell’s life miserable, as they are determined to make the Senate Majority Leader pay for trying to bully them into accepting the unpopular Republican agenda.
Minority Leader Harry Reid foreshadowed the shift recently with vows to essentially shut down the appropriations process and block highway and defense bills unless Republicans move markedly to the left. With deadlines looming on several must-pass bills, the stage is set for brinkmanship that could last through the summer and into the thick of the 2016 presidential primary season.
Democrats believe they have the upper hand after Republicans allowed government surveillance authorities to temporarily expire last week, stoking criticism of McConnell’s stewardship of the Senate. The mood in the chamber has turned more antagonistic over the past week, as Reid and McConnell have mixed it up on the Senate floor over who controls the agenda and which party is being more obstructionist.
Now, the big-ticket accomplishments of 2015 may soon give way to a similar paralysis, as Congress cruises into a series of fights in which congressional Democrats’ leverage lies mainly in their power to filibuster. Reid has called a national defense authorization bill that Republicans are pushing a “waste of time” because the White House has promised to veto it and pledged to block Republican spending bills and an extension of highway funding unless Republicans agree to fund Democratic spending programs and provide long-term certainty in the transportation budget.
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Part of Mitch McConnell’s plan for running the Senate has always involved using the budget process to force Democrats, including President Obama, to accept the Republican agenda. The first sign that his plan was not working was Democratic opposition to the Republican passed budget. A more concrete omen of trouble ahead for McConnell was the President’s threat to veto every appropriations bill that used sequester cuts to set funding levels.
Sen. McConnell is boxed in. If President Obama vetoes the appropriations bills, Senate Democrats have more than enough votes to sustain his vetoes. The battle over funding the government is expected to grind the Senate to a halt, and consume the entire summer.
On the Senate floor last week, Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) accused McConnell of governing crisis to crisis, “How many more of these manufactured crises must the American people endure? How many more times will the Majority Leader is let another vital program lapse, regardless of the harm it does? It is imperative that Republicans not continue their assault on job creation in America.”
Mitch McConnell is trying to set the stage for a Republican president while making the argument for Republicans keeping the Senate in the 2016 election. McConnell is under intense pressure to pass major legislation, but so far, the legislation that McConnell has passed means more inside the Beltway than it does to the rest of the country.
The result of the McConnell caused chaos could be a government shutdown. Senate Democrats and the President are demanding that McConnell and Republicans move left on the appropriations bills. If Republicans provoke a shutdown by refusing to compromise, it could signal the end of Republican control of the Senate.
A major battle that will shape the landscape of the 2016 election future control of the Senate is taking shape, and Democrats are determined to make Mitch McConnell pay.