On Wednesday, as President Joe Biden took office and Democrats swore in two new Senators, giving them a majority with Vice-President Kamala Harris’ tie breaking vote relegating Mitch McConnell (R. KY) from his spot as Senate Majority Leader to Senate Minority leader.
McConnell has wasted no time illustrating he’ll still do whatever is necessary and within his power to obstruct Biden’s agenda in any way possible.
As much of Wednesday was devoted, especially in speeches by Biden and Harris, to the theme of unifying a greatly divided nation, McConnell showed he has no real interest in helping that unity come to fruition.
McConnell seems intent on making Vice President Harris work hard in her tie-breaking role in the Senate.
In discussions with new Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D. NY) on the issue of power-sharing in the split chamber, McConnell has insisted that the agreement contain a pledge from Schumer to retain the Senate filibuster.
McConnell’s intentions for not being helpful to President Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D. CA), and the Senate are clear with this one demand.
Staff for McConnell and Schumer had been operating on the assumption that the power-sharing agreement in place from 2001 would remain in place this time, when McConnell threw the filibuster issue onto the table.
Schumer spokesperson Justin Goodman said that Schumer’s view is that “the fairest, most reasonable and easiest path forward is to adopt the 2001 bipartisan agreement without extraneous changes from either side,” while McConnell’s spokesperson told the Post that “Discussions on all aspects of the power-sharing agreement will continue over the next several days.”
McConnell has also already been up to his old obstructionist ways in delaying key Cabinet officials’ confirmations.
By recessing the Senate until inauguration week, it meant those Cabinet officials couldn’t go through the committee process to be ready on Day One of the Biden administration.
That means that currently the nation’s defense is dependent on acting career officials in the Pentagon the Biden team trusts.
The delay in Schumer and McConnell agreeing on sharing committee power could also keep other nominees in limbo because committees won’t be able to formally process them until the chairs and their staffs are appointed.
Certain nominees could move forward with unanimous consent from all 100 senators, but Sen. Josh Hawley (R. MO) has announced that he’s objecting to the nomination of Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Biden’s pick for Secretary of Homeland Security, hampering Biden on immigration reforms and the coronavirus response.
McConnell is giving indications that will drag out this process as long as he legally can, slowing down Biden’s agenda for his first 100 days in office.
Notably, McConnell is now among the GOP voices saying that Trump bears responsibility for the attack that saw the Capitol ransacked and left 5 people, including 2 Capitol Police Officers, dead.
In a clear shot at Trump and the Congressional Republicans that backed and defended him, McConnell, from the Senate floor said that Trump “provoked” the attack:
“The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence.”
McConnell split with Trump after the events of January 6, which happened as Congress met in a joint House/Senate session to count the Electoral College votes certifying Joe Biden as President.
McConnell hinted that he was open to the idea of convicting Trump at a second impeachment trial, after working with the White House to ensure Trump was acquitted in his first impeachment trial last year.
Even though his term ended Wednesday when Joe Biden is sworn into office, the Senate is preparing for the trial as the House passed one article of impeachment for Trump inciting a violent insurrection.
There is no consensus among constitutional scholars about whether a President can be convicted in an impeachment trial once he has left office.