Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has eliminated the last vestiges of the filibuster for appointees and has rubber-stamped a slew of corrupt, incompetent and unfit nominees — many of them executive branch picks who already washed out and partisan judges with scant experience. He’s deflected criticism of President Donald Trump’s vile racism and constant lies, and has refused to read the Mueller report, let alone recognize its stunning findings. McConnell has also become the chief obstructionist — a peculiar role for a majority leader with a president from his own party in the White House — by letting a raft of House legislation sit dormant and refusing to allow any Senate versions to reach the floor. McConnell also ballooned the deficit after misleading members and voters alike that the Trump tax cut would pay for itself.
No offense, however, is as serious and inexcusable as McConnell’s blocking of election-security legislation to prevent foreign interference with our elections. The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips reports, “Trump is so sensitive to findings that Russians tried to help him win in 2016 that a Cabinet secretary was warned against briefing him on it. … That puts McConnell in a tough spot: Pass legislation, which election security experts say is needed, and risk sparking the president’s ire, or block the legislation — and risk increased Russia election interference and public ridicule.”
That stance triggered an avalanche of criticism from the media and Democratic lawmakers. McConnell, normally impervious to criticism, was thrown off his game when #MoscowMitch started trending on Twitter. (This may be the most effective political moniker of the Trump era.) McConnell, of course, was a Cold War pugilist, but his new appellation perfectly fits his current role as enabler of Trump, who, in turn, enables Russian President Vladimir Putin. McConnell showed his fury on the floor by citing the insults of his critics, including Post columnist Dana Milbank. (Pro tip for McConnell: Don’t repeat “Moscow Mitch” when you are trying to defuse its potency.)
McConnell’s troubles have not ended, thanks to a very effective ad put forth by the NeverTrump group Republicans for the Rule of Law.
“Our representatives must step up and defend our Republic from future foreign meddling by passing legislation that deters those malign activities, secures our voting systems and encourages public and private cybersecurity,” the group’s legal adviser and spokesman Chris Truax said in a written statement. “This is not a partisan issue. We all have a stake in fair and free American elections and accurate vote counts.”
McConnell brought this opprobrium on himself. Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-New York, hit the nail on the head when he declared Tuesday that “so long as the Senate Republicans prevent legislation from reaching the floor; so long as they oppose additional appropriations to the states; so long as they malign election security provisions as ‘partisan wish lists,’ the critics are right to say Leader McConnell and Republican senators are blocking election security. Because at the moment that’s true.” Well, at least he didn’t call him Moscow Mitch. McConnell just hates being called Moscow Mitch.
Kentucky voters in 2020 get their chance to render their verdict on McConnell’s loyalty to his oath of office. Either Moscow Mitch, or Democrat and former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath? If nothing else, the prospect of that matchup should spur McConnell to bring an election security bill to the floor.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post. Follow her @JRubinBlogger.