“Missing in Action” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) misused his power once again on Thursday when he blocked legislation that would have reopened most of the federal government agencies that have been closed by Trump’s shutdown.
Hillary Clinton’s 2016 running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) attempted to get McConnell’s consent to consider a House-passed bill that would reopen all closed agencies except the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
DHS, which has authority over and responsibility for border security, is at the center of the shutdown fight. Trump wants Congress to approve $5.7 billion for the DHS to begin constructing a security wall along the U.S.- Mexican border.
Kaine’s efforts were not successful for a very simple reason: McConnell did not approve of them.
The powerful Republican Senate leader did not offer any explanation from the Senate floor as to why he killed Kaine’s motion. He has, however, been saying for several weeks that he will not bring up in the Senate any House-passed government funding bill unless it’s approved in advance by President Trump. Which means the House would have to approve Trump’s $5.7 billion request, which they won’t — and probably can’t — do.
On Tuesday McConnell made the following statement after blocking a House-approved bill that would fund parts of the government that have been closed due to Trump’s shutdown:
“The solution to this is a negotiation between the one person in the country who can sign something into law, the president of the United States, and our Democratic colleagues.”
McConnell also refused to approve a piece of legislation to fund DHS through February 8 which the House has passed.
This is the third time that McConnell has blocked House-passed government funding bills in the past two weeks. Under rules of the U.S. Senate, any senator of either party has the ability to ask for consent to vote on or pass a bill. However, any senator of either party can also object.
Kaine represents a state with one of the highest concentrations of federal workers, so he is anxious to end the shutdown.
Approximately one-fourth of the U.S. government has closed since December 22. The effect of this has been to force about 800,000 federal employees to work without pay or be furloughed without pay. In addition, millions of non-employees with the status of independent contractors have also lost their incomes. And the financial impact on the communities where these employees and contractors work has been severe, causing real hardship that cannot go on much longer without serious consequences.
As of midnight tonight the partial shutdown will be four weeks old, making it the longest shutdown in United States history.
With both sides digging in there does not appear to be any easy way to end the impasse. Mitch McConnell should do the job he is being paid to do, instead of abdicating all of his power and authority to the criminal occupant of the White House who is holding hostage the government of the United States.