Opinion – Bill Straub: Unable to guide ‘increasingly sneering’ GOP, McConnell stumbles yet again

For a certified political genius who knows all the levers to pull and bells to ring, the master of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, sure seems to trip over his own shoelaces a lot.

On Sunday, McConnell, the Senate Republican leader from of Louisville, said the upper chamber must be “prepared to act” on a monumental, bipartisan measure to bolster security along the southern border and provide aid to Israel, Taiwan and a beleaguered Ukraine, facing a dire threat from Russia.

“This is a humanitarian and security crisis of historic proportions,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Monday in regard to the border agreement. “And Senate Republicans have insisted not just for months, but for years that this urgent crisis demanded action.”

He noted that December “saw the highest daily and monthly tallies of illegal border crossings ever on record.” And that “the crisis has, literally, never been worse.”

A day later, McConnell delivered a second stirring message – fuhgeddabouit.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com

“It looks to me, and to most of our members, is we have no real chance here to make a law,” McConnell said.

So, to paraphrase Howard Cosell, down goes immigration reform. And it might carry Ukraine along with it.

Obviously, there’s a lot to unravel here. Congressional Republicans demanded tighter border security, with House GOP leaders maintaining they would not consider military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine without a border agreement.

Then they not only moved the goalposts but the entire playing field, insisting that the package championed by McConnell was “dead on arrival.”

That flip-flop coincides with former, and perhaps future, President Donald J. Trump declaring his opposition, asserting the measure didn’t go far enough and was, in fact “horrendous.”

So they’re tossing the border proposal aside like a smoldering cigarette butt, leaving McConnell to at least try and salvage the foreign aid portion of the deal.

In the end, as you probably have deduced, the whole mess is, to put it politely, a manure storm the extent of which is rarely seen. The situation is following its own deluded logic and raises questions about McConnell’s continued ability to survive as GOP leader even though in this case, and it is admittedly extremely rare, he is singing with the angels.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that, after 17 years in his leadership role, McConnell is losing, if he hasn’t already lost, the confidence of his caucus, which ironically, speaks well of him since an increasing number of the upper chamber’s Republican lawmakers, like his old BFF and ally, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green, are howling nutjobs.

McConnell was reluctantly drawn into the border debate. His primary focus throughput the past few months has been on the proposed $60 billion in military aid to Ukraine, which continues to defend itself against an invasion from Russia.

When House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-LA, who has proved to be an even bigger moron than folks expected, announced the lower chamber wouldn’t consider Ukraine aid without a border package, McConnell appointed Sen. James Lankford, R-OK, to work out some kind of deal with Democrats who, on a whole, were more sympathetic to the plight of migrants seeking to cross the border for their survival than the GOP, whose concern for brown folks, who they refer to as “invaders,” has always been negligible.

At any rate, Lankford and McConnell managed to work out a remarkable deal that handed Republicans more than they could have hoped for. It, among other things, sought to implement tough asylum procedures by raising standards for claims and expediting the process. It required the Department of Homeland Security to implement emergency authority barring migrants, except unaccompanied minors, from crossing the border if crossings rose above 5,000 on average per day on a given week — the first time numbers have been attached to shutting the boundary down.

The bill also allocated $20 billion to immigration enforcement, which would have resulted in the hiring of hundreds of new Border Patrol agents and officials charged with evaluating claims and increases detention capacity.

The package drew support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the right-wing Wall Street Journal editorial page and, most significantly, the union representing border patrol agents, which leans conservative and endorsed Trump in 2020. Some lawmakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, and Sen’ Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, found its term too harsh.

Yet, the package failed in a 50-49 vote, with 60 votes needed to invoke cloture in order to proceed to debate. Forty-five Republicans voted against it, including McConnell, who maintained the measure couldn’t make it through the House and he wanted to find an alternative to salvage Ukraine funding.

Just when it seems congressional Republicans have hit the absolute bottom of the Mariana Trench of stupidity, they haul out their shovels to dig deeper into more stupidity.

There’s little doubt the bill would have upgraded border security at a time when there were more than 2.4 million encounters with undocumented crossers during FY2023, up from 1.7 million in 2021.

It’s insane for Republicans to think they are going to succeed in pushing through a more severe package, especially given Democrats can still filibuster any proposal during the next 119th Congress if Republicans regain the majority. Democrats possibly, perhaps likely, in line to assume control of the House.

Just what they want, short of sending A-10 Thunderbolt IIs to the region to strafe folks along the Rio Grande, a measure, if recent comments are considered, could draw the support of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, is not very clear.

For a rationale outlining GOP opposition, let’s turn to Sen. Rand Paul, who earlier this month said that it is “safe to declare this bill as anti-American.”

(Pausing for a moment, yes, characterizing the proposal here as anti-American is a low blow, the only sort this nitwit knows how to throw).

In an interview with Fox News Digital, Paul tossed the mess into the lap of fellow Kentuckian McConnell, saying, “It really shows incredibly bad strategy on Senate Republican leadership to bring this up at all.”

“The Republicans who vote for this are going to be pilloried by Republicans at home,” Paul said. “So, there’s really no good logic in doing it this way. And I think it was because basically Sen. McConnell, Sen. [Chuck] Schumer and President Biden … they want to send more of our money to Ukraine. This was always sort of a sideshow for them in order to get what they really want, which is sending more of our money overseas.”

Paul told Fox that “the current law is sufficient”” to deal with immigration and that Biden has the authority to draw a halt to illegal crossings.

“When President Trump was president, his administration was able to control the border without any changes in the law,” he said.

Illegal immigration has jumped under Biden but it’s not like the border turned into no-man’s land under Trump, who actually had mixed success on immigration, one of his primary issues. Trump failed, despite repeated promises, to build a wall along the entire southern border. And several efforts to unilaterally impose closed borders were struck down by the courts. Trump sought to suspend asylum through proclamation in 2018. That effort was ultimately determined to be unlawful.

All of which is why Biden and others wanted laws providing better border controls.

Republican games playing at the border results from two factors. Trump, the leader of a cult, wants to use the issue to his benefit in the upcoming general election campaign. He has all but admitted that, writing on Truth Social:

“This Bill is a great gift to the Democrats, and a Death Wish for The Republican Party. It takes the HORRIBLE JOB the Democrats have done on Immigration and the Border, absolves them, and puts it all squarely on the shoulders of Republicans. Don’t be STUPID!!! We need a separate Border and Immigration Bill. It should not be tied to foreign aid in any way, shape, or form! The Democrats broke Immigration and the Border. They should fix it. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!”

Congressional Republicans received their marching orders. If they were lemmings they’d be doing cannonballs following Trump off the cliff.

Republicans are also hoping to use a hot issue like immigration to divert attention away from abortion, which, as a result of the Dobbs decision, has placed it front and center to their disadvantage. With any luck at all, they can scare people by warning about the funny talking brown people invading our country.

The real loser here is McConnell who, at 81, may no longer have the wherewithal to guide an increasingly sneering and obnoxious gang of buffoons who would rather rattle the cage than get anything done.

Paul all but called on him to step aside. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, proved less subtle. The earth has violently shifted under McConnell’s feet. He’s no longer able to rely on allies and friends like former Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN, who retired, who offered counsel and at least gave the perception of a willingness to govern.

This current crop, inspired by Trump, prefers chaos and a desire to undermine anything that has proved worthwhile. Now they’re coming after Mitch.

One thought on “Opinion – Bill Straub: Unable to guide ‘increasingly sneering’ GOP, McConnell stumbles yet again

  1. At 81 years old maybe he could be considered “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”

    Or, maybe taking away the Minority Leadership from McConnell is too much like taking the car keys from your elderly parents.

    Either way it appears we have finally come to the “Passing Of The Guard” moment.

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