Sen. Mitch McConnell has a ready comeback for Democrats who keep chanting “do your job” in hopes of pressuring Republicans to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. It is simply, “We are.”
With a little guile and an agenda of limited ambition, Kentucky’s senior senator, the Senate majority leader, can point to a number of legislative victories, complete with Democratic support. And he is not shy about boasting.
“This week we have seen what can be accomplished on behalf of the American people with a Senate that’s back to work under the Republican majority,” McConnell said in a floor speech Wednesday, minutes before passage of a bipartisan energy bill and a day after the adoption of legislation to tighten aviation standards.
On those issues and others, like the opioid crisis, Democrats are actually helping him, even if some are not happy about it. Last week, McConnell pushed through a bill to fight abuse of painkillers and heroin, adding to his growing list of bipartisan achievements.
Given the Senate rules, under which 60 votes are needed to break filibusters, McConnell cannot win adoption of anything unless Democrats refrain from his strategy when he was in the minority, which was to block virtually everything. Democrats complain that McConnell is passing versions of some of the same bills he blocked when Democrats were in control.
Still, Democrats are going along, helping McConnell create a sense of productivity in the Senate. But they are also betting that Republicans’ refusal to consider the nomination of Judge Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court will cement an image in voters’ minds of the Republicans as the party of “no.”
“I think it’s a good thing that we’re getting some things done,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York. “But it is only because Democrats in the minority are not following the path McConnell followed.”
Asked why more legislation seemed to be moving, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said “Because the Republicans are in charge,” Collins said, “we have a true commitment to restoring the traditions of the Senate of open debate, amendments on bills.”