Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won’t be taking up a House bill addressing the dilemma of immigrant youths known as “Dreamers,” despite bipartisan support for it. It joins measures related to firearms, ethics, violence against women and myriad other topics that the Republican-controlled Senate apparently intends to just sit on as America’s problems fester.
McConnell’s penchant for obstructionism is his single most consistent political characteristic. Its most infamous manifestation was his refusal in 2016 to allow a hearing for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, based on a fabricated precedent.
Since the GOP lost the House this year, McConnell has all but shut down the Senate, refusing to allow mere debate — much less a vote — on measure after measure passed by the House. They include items such as a universal background-check provision for gun purchases that some 90 percent of Americans support, election security measures to address a danger that U.S. intelligence warns is still lurking from foreign election interference, and a measure to undo President Donald Trump’s terrible decision withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement.
In some cases, McConnell blocks bills out of plain old partisan spite, his driving instinct in all situations. By not even allowing debate, McConnell conveniently avoids having to defend controversial stances such as the GOP’s opposition to reasonable gun control.
How does the Senate leader rationalize his refusal to allow a vote on re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, as McConnell did this year? Because the National Rifle Association signaled that it disliked a provision denying firearms to convicted stalkers. McConnell not only prioritized his party’s loyalty to the NRA over the safety of women, he also made sure his caucus wouldn’t have to publicly defend that stance.
When GOP lawmakers come seeking voter support in 2020, voters must hold them accountable and demand explanations.
McConnell’s blockade of the Dreamers legislation is especially galling because he has called vaguely for lawmakers to address the status of undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children. Few in Congress yearn to see young adults who were effectively raised as Americans expelled to countries where they might not even speak the language.
McConnell says he is “sympathetic” to their situation but has been noncommittal about addressing it as part of a more comprehensive immigration package. In other words, he wants to use the Dreamers as leverage to get Democrats to the table on more contentious immigration issues.
This is the Senate under Mitch McConnell: No group of people is too vulnerable to be used as a partisan cudgel, and no issue is too important to be politicized to its core. And if all else fails, he can always just turn off the microphones.