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.

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.

The U.S. Constitution Was Never Perfect

W. Cleon Skousen
W. Cleon Skousen (Wikipedia)

There’s been an increase in the number of Americans calling themselves constitutionalists in the last several years. They believe the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted using the concept of originalism, wherein the courts should identify the exact intent of the Framers of the Constitution and render legal decisions based solely upon that “original” meaning. But one of the problems with this approach is the difficulty of defining the exact intent of a document that was written more than 220 years ago.

Most of these constitutionalists also hold far-right political views and like to complain about how our country is in trouble because of modern Supreme Court decisions. Some of them go so far as to claim that the court’s recent decisions have violated God’s will. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for instance, teaches that the original Constitution was divinely inspired because God was integrally involved in its formulation. Some Mormons have taken this belief much further. The late W. Cleon Skousen founded the National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS), a conservative, religious-themed constitutionalist political activist organization. According to the NCCS, the founding of the United States was a divine miracle and we must reject the tyrannical and sinful nature of the modern U.S. federal government. (Before he founded the NCCS Skousen was fired from being the police chief of Salt Lake City for abusing citizens, and was denounced by the city’s mayor as a “little Hitler.” After that he taught a traveling anti-Communist class nationwide in which he liked to denounce the John F. Kennedy administration for being Marxist.) Skousen died in 2006, but he still has many admirers, including Arizona politician Russell Pearce and political commentator Glenn Beck.

Worshipping the Original U.S. Constitution is Irrational

Religious constitutionalists say there are historical documents about the 1787 Constitutional Convention which prove the Constitution was divinely inspired. The “Father of the Constitution” James Madison, for example, wrote to Thomas Jefferson afterwards that it was “impossible to consider the degree of concord which ultimately prevailed as less than a miracle.” George Washington later wrote, “To that superintending Power alone is our retraction from the brink of ruin to be attributed.” But closer examination of quotes from the Framers indicate they believed the true miracle was that all of the young nation’s disparate political interests were able to come to an agreement on a political system that could replace the completely dysfunctional Articles of Confederation, which had served as the nation’s first constitution. Yes, they were very proud of the original Constitution, and realized it was an historic document in the history of the world, but it’s clear they didn’t think it was perfect.

Evidence of this is included in the original Constitution. It consisted of just 7 articles, with one of these, Article 5, describing the process for making constitutional amendments. The first 10 amendments, called the Bill of Rights, had to be promised to the states of Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York to assure their ratification of the original constitution. A perfect original document wouldn’t have needed to be amended. And there are now 27 amendments.

These amendments speak to some of the major deficiencies in the original Constitution. The most important, of course, was the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery when it was ratified in 1865. (Several of the Constitution’s original Framers were slave owners, including James Madison.) The man who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in 1865, Confederate terrorist John Wilkes Booth, wrote, “looking upon African slavery from the same stand-point held by the noble framers of our constitution, I for one, have ever considered it one of the greatest blessings (both for themselves and us,) that God has ever bestowed upon a favored nation.”

The 17th Amendment was another important one because it gave voters the ability to directly elect U.S. senators when it was ratified in 1913. And the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was ratified in 1920.

Furthermore, these self-proclaimed constitutionalists ignore the bad Supreme Court decisions which resulted from a strict interpretation of the original Constitution, such as the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision that confirmed the legality of slavery because the Framers of the Constitution viewed blacks as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

Constitutionalists spend a lot of time complaining about the federal courts using the common sense “living document” concept wherein the interpretation of the Constitution includes consideration of modern day realities the original Framers could not have imagined. Any court decision they politically disagree with is given the Orwellian label of “judicial activism,” and the judge that issued it is demonized.

Their favorite topic is the Constitution’s Second Amendment, which states that, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” They interpret this to mean that any form of government gun control is unconstitutional, regardless of any other public concerns.

It’s obvious that most constitutionalists are just exploiting the concept of originalism as a vehicle to promote their conservative views, because worshipping the original Constitution and its Framers is irrational.