Despite the fact that the Ryan-Murray budget deal passed with overwhelming support from House Republicans, surprisingly, it hangs in the balance in the Senate. Much of the robust showing in the House was a result of Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) strong influence on budgetary issues.
However, in the Senate, many of its members are facing tough primary challenges, and they are looking beyond the personalities. Even some of the most moderate Republican members like Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bob Corker (R-TN) have announced their opposition to this deal. After all, the House-passed bill will repeal hard-fought spending cuts and replace them with tax increases and notional spending offsets.
Consequently, this bill is not a done deal in the Senate. Even if every Democrat votes for the bill, which is not a safe assumption, no Republican aside for Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has committed to supporting it. It’s not clear how Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) will find at least five Republicans to support the bill.
So where is the Republican leader? Where is Senator Mitch McConnell? As the highest ranking Republican in the Senate, this is the quintessential moment for him to assert his power and influence and speak with conviction against this rotten deal. With the outcome of the bill hanging in the balance, and so many members on the fence, now is the time when McConnell can affect the outcome.
His silence is especially jarring given his emphatic statements during the battle over defunding Obamacare on the need to keep the sequester cuts. He was unwilling to fight Obamacare, but claimed to fully support keeping the sequester cuts. Well, now that the sequester cuts are about to be partially repealed, but it can still be blocked in the Senate, McConnell needs to step up to the plate.
The contours of this bill were known to the public weeks ago. It was quite evident that they planned to replace the sequester. The only point of contention was finding phony offsets to attach to the deal. McConnell, as the most powerful Republican in the Senate, was certainly aware of the fact that his promise to keep the sequester was being challenged from day one. Why the silence?
Unfortunately, this is what McConnell does on the most critical pieces of legislation. It is precisely times like this when we need bold conservative leadership in the Senate, yet this is when McConnell usually engages in his disappearing act. He was nowhere to be seen in during the debate over Syria and immigration until the very last moment when the outcome was no longer in doubt. As Politico noted today, “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is widely expected to oppose the budget measure, a position that could sway fence-sitting GOP senators. But it appears unlikely that GOP leaders would strong-arm their colleagues and urge them to vote against the measure.”
McConnell loves to tout his clout and influence and the importance of Kentucky being represented by the Senate Leader. But what good is a leader who waits until the liberals have 60 votes before opposing bad legislation?
Conservatives are starving for new leadership. We are sick of those who play an insiders’ game of ‘hope yes, and vote no’ with bad legislation. If Senator McConnell really opposes this bill he should speak out forcefully now and whip against it all weekend. That is the job of a Republican opposition leader. If he really supports it he should be man enough to vote for it.
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