Republican senators met at the Library of Congress two weeks before Democrat Barack Obama’s 2009 presidential inauguration to discuss their legislative agenda for the new Congress. According to reporter Michael Grunwald, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, used the meeting to unveil his scorched earth strategy for sabotaging the newly elected president.
In his book, The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era, Grunwald says that McConnell told his fellow Republican senators, “There are enough of us to block the Democratic agenda as long as we all march in lockstep. As long as Republicans refuse to follow Obama’s lead, Americans will see partisan food fights and conclude that Obama has failed to produce change.”
As a result of the 2014 mid-term elections, Sen. McConnell assumed the position of Senate Majority Leader in January 2015, and on February 23, 2016, he announced that Senate Republicans had decided to block President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died unexpectedly on February 13. McConnell explained that Senate Republicans believed the vacancy “should not be filled by this lame duck president.” Their decision was made before Obama named his nominee.
On April 6, 2017, Sen. McConnell succeeded in getting the Senate to approve the “nuclear option” that eliminated the filibuster rule for the approval of Supreme Court nominees. The change allowed nominees to be approved with a simple majority of the Senate rather than the traditional 60 votes. The change allowed Senate Republicans to approve President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Justice Scalia the following day.
On September 27, 2018, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Pres. Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager. In response to a request from Senator Jeff Flake, R-AZ, Trump ordered the FBI to conduct a limited investigation into her accusation that would take no longer than a week. On October 3 Sen. McConnell scheduled a vote in the Senate on October 5 regarding Kavanaugh’s nomination – before the results of the FBI investigation were available. The investigation was not released to the public and the the Senate voted to confirm Kavanaugh to replace the retired Justice Anthony Kennedy by a 50-48 vote on October 6, 2018.
On November 27, 2018, Sen. McConnell said he would block a vote on a bill in the Senate to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Pres. Donald Trump.
On January 3, 2019, the newly elected members of the 116th U.S. Congress were sworn in, with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives as a result of the 2018 mid-term elections. They promptly passed a bill to end the partial government shutdown that Pres. Trump had initiated on December 22, 2018. Sen. McConnell refused to allow a vote on the bill in the Senate, even though there were plenty of votes to pass it, because it didn’t include the $5.7 billion that Pres. Trump wanted to build more Mexican border walls. McConnell explained that, “The Senate will not take up any proposal that does not have a real chance of passing this chamber and getting a presidential signature.” In other words, he chose party over nation because he didn’t want to force Republicans in Congress to vote to override a Trump veto in order to reopen the government.
On January 30, 2019, Sen. McConnell gave a speech in the Senate wherein he criticized proposed Democratic legislation that would make federal election days a national holiday by calling it a “power grab.”
On February 19, 2019, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe revealed that Congressional leaders were briefed when the agency opened a counterintelligence investigation into President Donald Trump’s connections with Russia after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey in 2017. The lawmakers included Sen. McConnell and, “No one objected,” McCabe said.
On March 25, 2019, Sen. McConnell blocked a Senate resolution calling for special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to be released to the public. He explained that Attorney General William Barr was still working with Mueller to determine if there was anything in the report that should not be released to the public. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, pointed out that the resolution didn’t say the report should be released immediately, just that it should be released.
On April 3, 2019, Sen. McConnell implemented another “nuclear option.” He used Senate procedural tactics to allow for the approval of lower-level executive branch nominations, and district court nominations, with a simple 51-vote majority, instead of the traditional 60 vote approval threshold.