NEW YORK — ObamaCare smolders, tax-reform looms, the federal budget demands attention, and President Donald J. Trump’s sub-cabinet and judicial nominees age gracefully as they await confirmation. So, where is the U.S. Senate this week? Where else? On vacation!
Actually, it’s not on vacation, per se. Rather, the Senate pretends to work. After Monday’s federal holiday, Tuesday’s Congressional Record explains, “The Senate met at 9:52:47 a.m. in pro forma session, and adjourned at 9:53:25 a.m. until 8:30 a.m., on Friday, October 13, 2017.” So, the Senate “deliberated” for a whopping 38 seconds. Even more efficiently, the upper chamber gaveled in and out Friday morning in just 26 seconds.
The Senate’s committees also are dark this week.
Senators return on Monday. Their busy day begins promptly at the crack of 4:00 p.m.
While most Americans spent, at most, one day to honor Christopher Columbus, the Republican Senate is devoting a whole week to ponder the legendary explorer’s legacy. This is atop the Senate’s three-day Rosh Hashanah recess. That break, in turn, followed its month-long summer hiatus before Labor Day.
Who fuels this inaction? None other than Senate Relaxation Director Mitch McConnell (R - Kentucky).
McConnell is lazy. While Senate holidays amass as quickly as neglected priorities accumulate, McConnell’s sloth makes the proverbial welfare queen look like a Navy Seal.
Key conservatives have had it with the Senate’s majority “leader.”
“Your current failure to deliver on the highest priority commitments to the American people is nothing short of shocking,” veteran activists including Adam Brandon, Brent Bozell, Jenny Beth Martin, Richard Viguerie, and others wrote McConnell in an open letter Wednesday.
“You pledged to reduce the size of this oppressive federal government. You have done nothing,” these exasperated free-marketeers continued. “You promised to repeal Obamacare, ‘root and branch.’ You’ve done nothing. You promised tax reform. You’ve done nothing. You don’t even show up for work.”
While the House also has taken too many days off, it usually finishes its homework first.
The House passed 334 bills through September 22. The Senate endorsed, and President Trump signed, 60 of them. Thus, 274 bills molder in the Senate. According to Quorum Analytics, this is 76 percent more marooned measures than the analogous 156 average since Daddy Bush became president in January 1989.
“In the House, we’ve been productive and passed our agenda, all of our appropriations bills ahead of schedule. The first time since 2004,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R – Wisconsin) told Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity on September 27. Citing these 12 spending measures and other House-adopted bills, Ryan said, “We haven’t gotten them over the finish line in the Senate. Is that frustrating for the House? You bet it is frustrating for the House.”
The House-passed bills rotting on McConnell’s desk include:
• A pro-enterprise repeal of the Dodd-Frank red-tape colossus
• Re-authorization of human-trafficking prevention legislation
• Initial funding for a southern-border wall
• The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, to foil illegal-alien thugs
The Senate’s executive calendar also is a monument to lassitude.
“With well over 100 vacancies on the federal bench and 50 nominees awaiting action in the Senate, you all have performed the Herculean task of confirming … seven?!” the conservatives’ open letter asks in astonished disgust. “That’s less than one judge per month!”
Presidential nominees for 59 executive-branch positions have cleared their respective Senate committees. They are ready to be approved and begin serving the American people. Some nominees have sought the Senate’s advice and consent since June 8.
Yes, ObamaCare is complex. And enacting President Trump’s “beautiful” tax cut is tough. But that is McConnell’s job. And if that’s too draining, he has zero excuse for not convening the Senate at least five days a week to approve President Trump’s nominees, so they can seek justice and enforce the law.
“What conservatives want is a Republican version of Chuck Schumer,” said Richard Viguerie, “someone who is always on offense for his party’s agenda.”
Indeed, Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer of New York repeatedly slams the Senate’s brakes by merely threatening to filibuster any matter that his caucus dislikes. But threats are meaningless until executed. I hereby threaten to run a dozen head of cattle through the Democratic National Committee. Unless I actually try this, so what?
Similarly, McConnell should stop assuming the fetal position whenever Schumer screams, “Filibuster!”
McConnell should consider the House-passed Kate’s Law. If Schumer wants to filibuster it, McConnell should reply: “Proceed.” Let Democrat senators Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren stand on the Senate floor and state for hours on end why seriously felonious illegal aliens who re-trespass into the U.S. after deportation should keep doing so. Kate Steinle’s alleged killer, Juan Francisco López-Sánchez, did this — five times.
Meanwhile, GOP donors are rejecting McConnell’s stasis.
“Veteran fundraisers say they’re having an unusually hard time setting up meetings with major contributors, lining up checks, and organizing events,” Politico’s Alex Isenstadt and Gabriel Debenedetti reported last week. Gifts to GOP campaign committees have cratered since Senate ObamaCare repeal efforts crashed and burned — twice.
“You’re never going to get a more sympathetic Republican than I am,” contributor Tom Wachtell told Politico. “But I’m sick and tired of nothing happening.”
“Senate Republicans need to wake up and realize that McConnell has led them into a box canyon,” said Ken Cuccinelli II, president of Senate Conservatives Action. “His war on conservatives has made him toxic, and now he’s a liability for all Republicans. He’s why Luther Strange (R - Alabama) lost the primary” to rocket-propelled grenade Roy Moore — despite some $10 million from McConnell’s own super PAC.
McConnell lacks the Reaganesque geniality to motivate through warmth, the Harry Reid-like ruthlessness to rally through fear, or even the energy to keep the Senate open as often as a typical American workplace. Rather than correct his own incompetence, McConnell blames President Trump’s “excessive expectations” about the Senate’s capabilities. But McConnell’s own 200 Day Agenda — unveiled January 26 — was supposed to yield ObamaCare repeal, an infrastructure bill, and tax reform before the August recess.
Ineffective, discredited, and exhausted, listless Mitch McConnell should have the good taste to resign immediately as majority leader. If he insists on remaining the biggest millstone tethered to the Trump/GOP agenda, then the time is now for reformist Senate conservatives to stage a palace coup.