Republican Senator Mitch McConnell Is No Good

Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell (Wikipedia)

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.

The New Four Freedoms

franklin roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt (Wikipedia)

On January 6, 1941, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the annual State of the Union address and it was especially memorable because he identified Four Freedoms that he believed all people should enjoy:

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of worship
  • Freedom from want
  • Freedom from fear

WWII had been going on in Europe for fourteen months when Roosevelt gave the speech. Hitler’s armies had already conquered Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. And his air force was busy trying to bomb Britain into submission. On the other side of the globe, Japan was continuing its invasion of China.

Roosevelt’s speech was a response to this ongoing fascist aggression, and it identified what he believed was America’s responsibility to oppose totalitarianism and defend basic human rights throughout the world. It was well received because most people understood that freedom comes with responsibilities. But many Americans were wary of getting involved in the war, so the U.S didn’t enter it until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December. In the meantime, Roosevelt succeeded in getting the Lend-Lease Act passed in March. It allowed the U.S. to provide material support to the Allies, fulfilling Roosevelt’s earlier promise to make America the “Arsenal of Democracy”.

The majority of Americans considered the Four Freedoms important within their own country too. But conservative Republicans criticized Roosevelt’s speech as an attempt to justify government regulations and social welfare programs. The right-wing faction of the party wasn’t very successful then. But they never gave up, and today they’re holding their party and the entire United States hostage.

American voters responded to the right-wing extremism of Republican Pres. Donald Trump and his supporters in the November 2018 midterm elections by electing many more Democrats – enough to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Soon after the election, progressive billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer announced 5 Rights he thinks all Democrats should champion in the upcoming 2020 elections.  They are:

  1. The Right To An Equal Vote: So everyone has an equal voice to demand justice from our government and can vote with no discrimination and no barriers.
  2. The Right to Clean Air & Clean Water: So everyone can breathe fresh air and drink clean water, free from industrial poisons.
  3. The Right to Learn: So everyone has the right to a free, quality, public education from preschool through college and on to advanced skills training.
  4. The Right to a Living Wage: So no one needs to work more than one full-time job.
  5. The Right to Health: So everyone has a chance to live a healthy life, with universal healthcare.

These rights are the modern successors to Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms.

Republicans Are Picking Economic Winners and Losers

smokestacks
(Wikipedia)

On April 25, 2018, Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill passed by the state’s Republican controlled legislature to exempt coal purchases from the state sales tax. It would lower the price of coal produced at the state’s only active coal mine, Peabody Energy’s Kayenta Mine on Black Mesa. The objective of the bill is to help attract a buyer for the mine’s only customer, the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station power plant near Page. The bill was pushed by Peabody Energy’s lobbyist Tom Dorn.

All but one of the Navajo Generating Station’s owners have decided to shut it down in 2019 because they can buy cheaper and cleaner electricity on the open market. And its other owner, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, cannot afford to operate the plant by itself, so if it shuts down, so will the Peabody coal mine.

“This bill is essential to the economic success of the Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, and surrounding communities,” Ducey said when he signed it. The two tribes would, indeed, be severely impacted by a shutdown because the power plant and mine are located on their reservations. Both tribes hold leases for the mine, and the Navajos hold one for the power plant. If the plant and mine close, it’s estimated the annual revenue of the Navajo Nation’s government would shrink by about $40 million, or about 23%, while the smaller Hopi Tribe’s revenue could decline by about $12 million, or about 67%. In addition, the power plant and mine employee about 750 workers, nearly all of them Native Americans. (Some people would still be needed to maintain and dismantle the plant and mine if they were closed.)

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