Bad Move Mitch

Mitch McConnell doesn’t make many inept political moves; I think he made one Tuesday night. Let’s explore.

Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was on the Senate floor Tuesday evening reading from statements the late Senator Ted Kennedy made in 1986 during the consideration of Jeff Sessions for a federal judgeship. Then she began to read a letter from the late Coretta Scott King (widow of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King) when Republican Majority Leader McConnell objected citing Senate Rule 19.

Prior to McConnell’s objection the only news media covering her live was C-SPAN. I’m certain there were some other reporters lurking around the chamber somewhere, but Warren’s activities would have probably never even made it to the cutting room floor let alone readers, listeners and viewers. I often joke that I am one of the twelve people who actually watch C-SPAN and I wasn’t watching at that moment. (Actually the viewership is larger than 12 but it is very small compared to most broadcast channels.)

In part Senate Rule 19 states that no Senator while on the floor of the Senate shall, “Directly or indirectly, by any form of word impute to another Senator or other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” I can see where McConnell felt that Warren broke the rule. However, by his actions he made her into a martyr and increased her already immense national popularity. That, I can assure you, was not his objective.

It’s way too early, but at this point Warren appears to be the leader for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Much can change between now and then; but promoting Warren is the last thing McConnell wants to do. “Punishing” Warren has already backfired on the Republicans once before. Warren never wanted to be a Senator; she wanted to be the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which she basically created. When they stonewalled her from that she ran for and was elected to the Senate. With the election of Donald Trump they could have simply fired her as CFPB Director and she would be out of their hair.

The topic before the Senate Tuesday night was the nomination of Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions to become Attorney General. By the time this article is posted Sessions will almost undoubtedly have been confirmed. Nothing Warren was reading was going to stop that and McConnell’s actions just drew more attention to her.

Partisans on each side will quickly fall in line behind either McConnell or Warren. While evil, McConnell is certainly a savvy politician and knows the battle is for the persuadables. Most Americans (even political junkies) don’t know Senate Rule 19. Fewer still know the history behind it. Without getting into the weeds and details, in days long gone Senators actually got into fistfights in the chamber. Old men (they were all men in those days) went so far as to hitting their fellow Senators with their canes. That is what brought the rule about. If you ever noticed Senators don’t directly address each other. They speak to through the presiding officer who they refer to as the President of the Senate. In fact, you will notice most references to another Senator begin with words like “My good friend from…”

Mitch was probably correct but Elizabeth won. Bad move Mitch!

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