“You’re a liar and your breath stinks.”
This is a thing people used to say when I was in high school. Maybe they still say it. I have no idea where this insult originated or why lying would cause bad breath, but I always assumed it was because the words coming through a liar’s mouth were rotten. If there’s any truth to the old insult, I’ll bet the halls of Congress smell like garbage. And I’ll bet the worst stench of all is coming straight from Mitch McConnell.
McConnell needs support from some Democrats and from every member of his own party to pass an ongoing government spending bill. As I write this, he seems to have secured support for a bill that would keep the government open for three weeks. Beyond that? I’m skeptical.
McConnell is the Republican party’s chief obstructionist. During the Obama years, he dug in and pushed back on even popular legislative proposals. His stated goal was not to help the American people, it was to hurt the American president. In some cases, he succeeded. He led the charge to block a Supreme Court nominee, he watered down and blocked portions of a health care bill modeled on a conservative proposal.
Here’s McConnell speaking about the strategy in an interview with the New York Times:
“It was absolutely critical that everybody be together, because if the proponents of the bill were able to say it was bipartisan, it tended to say to the public that this is O.K, they must have figured it out. It’s either bipartisan or it isn’t.”
In other words, McConnell thought it was more important to keep his party unified against the Democrats than to keep the government working for the American people. Now he needs bipartisan support. So McConnell has promised to negotiate on immigration, but how can anyone trust McConnell to do what he says he will do? He has proven that once he gets the votes he needs, he will renege on any promises that don’t suit him. It isn’t only the opposing party that suffers from McConnell’s blatant dishonesty; he lies just as easily to fellow Republicans.
Just ask Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who claimed she got an “ironclad” promise from McConnell in exchange for her vote on the recent tax bill. The promise? No cuts to healthcare, particularly Medicare and Medicaid. Within days of securing Collins’ vote, Republicans announced that cutting spending on these programs was one of their top legislative priorities for 2018.
McConnell’s promises are meaningless. Everyone knows it, and that makes this entire process a farce. There was zero reason to attach funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to this bill. CHIP funding should have been passed weeks ago, but Republicans knew they needed a warm, fuzzy talking point for the bill, so they put political ambition above the health and welfare of America’s children. That’s textbook McConnell strategy. It stinks.
Now, Democrats and many Republicans support continuing the program that allows immigrants brought to America as children to remain here without fear of deportation. Despite what McConnell keeps saying on camera, a longterm DACA solution could have been passed weeks or months ago. McConnell and other obstructionist lawmakers refused to consider the legislation, even though their own president has signaled support for the program. (Granted, he’s also signaled opposition, but that’s the nature of this president. His convictions are no deeper than a puddle.) Now McConnell says he’s ready to talk. Given McConnell’s history, there is no reason to believe he will keep his promises to negotiate on DACA. And if he doesn’t, we’ll be having shutdown panic again in three weeks.
Look, Democrats are not free from blame in this mess. Plenty of Democrats have lied to get what they wanted over the years, but the issue right now is whether the government can work when Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the presidency. The party of Mitch McConnell, the man who stridently opposed any legislation supported by Obama or proposed by Democrats, cannot legitimately demand bipartisan cooperation after eight years of rigid party line obstruction. McConnell and his crew of legislative bullies created this mess with a string of outright lies and broken promises.
McConnell’s promises to negotiate in good faith don’t pass the smell test, but let’s hope he surprises us with a rare moment of fresh honesty. Congress must pass a government spending bill that lasts more than three weeks. Americans deserve better than a government that expires quicker than a gallon of milk. And I don’t want to have to revisit this issue every month between now and November. That would really stink.