Contradicting Past Promises, McConnell Turns Senate into Legislative Graveyard

Contradicting Past Promises, McConnell Turns Senate into Legislative Graveyard


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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Although when Republicans were campaigning in 2014, Sen. Mitch McConnell promised that–if the GOP were given the Senate majority–he would be sure to allow consideration of Democratic legislative proposals.

Fast forward five years, and now-Senate Majority Leader McConnell is bragging about being a “grim reaper” for the legislation–much of it bipartisan–which was approved over in the Democratic-controlled House.

“The American people cannot afford to have Leader McConnell turn one chamber of their government into a legislative graveyard for two full years,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday on the Senate floor.

More than 100 bills passed by the House are awaiting legislative action in the Senate, including:

  • H.R.1, For the People Act, a sweeping package of pro-democracy reforms that aims to make it easier, not harder, to vote; end the dominance of big money in politics; and ensure that public officials work for the public interest.
  • H.R.7, Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation to empower women to challenge pay discrimination in the workplace, which passed the House with bipartisan support.
  • H.R.8, Bipartisan Background Checks Act, legislation to enact the common sense, widely-supported expansion of background checks for gun purchases, which passed the House with bipartisan support.
  • H.R.1585, Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which passed the House with bipartisan support.
  • H.R.1644, Save the Internet Act, legislation to restore net neutrality, which passed the House with bipartisan support.

“If I’m still the majority leader of the Senate, think of me as the Grim Reaper. None of that stuff is going to pass. None of it,” McConnell said in remarks last month in his home state of Kentucky, per CNN.

Except that McConnell’s stance violates commitments he offered about how he and Republicans would run the Senate.

McConnell promised that he would open the Senate so that ideas with bipartisan support could come to the floor, and said that he would allow a free and open amendment process to foster bipartisanship and deliver real legislation to the president’s desk. But Leader McConnell has failed to live up to these commitments, according to Senate Democrats.

Instead, he has “filled the amendment tree” – a process that denies senators of both parties the ability to offer amendments – more than all other Republican majority leaders in the history of the Senate combined, Democrats said. Only eight amendments have received floor votes in the current 116th Congress.

However, in remarks made at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in May 2014, McConnell promised otherwise.

“If Republicans were fortunate enough to reclaim the majority in November, I assure you, my friends, all of this would change. A Senate majority under my leadership would break sharply from the practices of the [Majority Leader Harry] Reid era in favor of a far more free-wheeling approach to problem solving. I would work to restore its traditional role as a place where good ideas are generated, debated and voted upon. We’d fire up the committee process. And, by the way, when I say that, I mean Democratic ideas, too,” he said. “[…] I guarantee you these are things that can and will change because one person can change most of the problems in the Senate and that’s whoever the majority leader is, the person who gets to set the agenda has the right of prior recognition and has the opportunity to decide whether you’re going to apply a gag rule to everybody or whether you’re going to use tactics that create a greater level of comity and, of course, get more results.”

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