Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader, is not a fan of government stalemates.
"Do you remember me? I'm the guy who puts us out of stalemate, "he said in a 2014 CNN interview. "It's a failed policy."
"Let me make it clear that there will be no government shutdowns," he repeated later that year.
And yet we are here.
While McConnell unanimously got the Senate to finance the government in December, Trump changed his mind and threatened with a veto that drove the government into its current impasse.
"Now that the President has put the Republicans in a bad position, McConnell is doing his best to protect them from the aftermath of the stalemate," said Josh Huder, senior officer of the Georgetown Government Affairs Institute, previously with Democrats had worked together hill. "In general, McConnell does not insult, because he is engaged in defense games."
As the outcry over the partial closure grew, McConnell agreed to pay attention to Trump as well as the House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi and the Senate, minority leader Chuck Schumer. By keeping the Republicans in the Senate largely out of the shutdown conversation, he makes sure they avoid the blame.
"Ultimately, the solution is a deal between the President and Nancy and Chuck because we need some votes from Chuck and obviously we need Nancy's support," McConnell told CNN. "I did not go astray. … It's just that there's no special role for me if you have that attitude.
McConnell's decision to persuade Trump to take the lead (at least publicly) of the shutdown talks may seem like a passive move, but is also strategically one that enabled the Senate Republicans to out of this stalemate relative unexplained to come out.
A Politico / Morning Consult poll this week found that Trump captured the lion's share of the blame, with 49 per cent of respondents blaming him and only 4 per cent blaming Congressional Republicans.
McConnell is not exactly a natural counterpart to Trump ̵
As McConnell admitted to Charles Homans of the New York Times, "I'm amazed how this ends."
How We Got Here
In an attempt to avoid this situation, McConnell unanimously passed the Senate a short-term spending bill that did not include any wall money last December.
"We've gone this route before, and I do not think we'll go that route again," McConnell told reporters at the time, according to Erica Werner and David Weigel of the Washington Post. They continued:
But McConnell has an unreliable partner in the White House. In the week before Christmas, McConnell urged the Senate to unanimously pass a short-term spending bill that would keep the government open until the beginning of February, but not force it to give Trump the five billion dollars he wants for the wall, Mexico had repeatedly passed finances.
McConnell did so with the understanding that Trump would support the bill, allies said. But the president abruptly changed the course the next morning under heavy pressure from the conservatives, and Parliament never accepted the Senate bill to pass laws instead to keep the government open and finance Trump's wall. Legislation had no chance in the Senate.
When Trump unexpectedly refused to sign the clean bill after receiving pressure from Conservative House members Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, it was clear he'd left McConnell high and dry.
The reversal of Trump prompted McConnell to maintain his position as President and supported a shutdown that he did not even want.
"He was burned by Trump, and he does not want to be burned again," said Jim Manley, who had worked under former senate minority leader Harry Reid.
McConnell has a Senate vote for two on Thursday, one from Trump and one from Democrats. Both are expected to fail.
The generous sentence is that he is finally doing something against the shutdown. more cynical is that he will show the world that both sides have an untenable position – and force the Democrats to abandon their "clean election" position.
#WheresMitch: McConnell Retains a Very Unobtrusive Profile
McConnell's discreet behavior in the shutdown negotiations was so conspicuous that it became a kind of punchline.
"The idea that McConnell plays the leading role here is an absolute joke. He was and is MIA, "Manley said. "The last time I looked, Congress is an equal part of the government that is heavily involved in government spending."
At a Rose Garden press conference in early January, McConnell's absence from the debate was particularly noticeable. Despite attending a White House meeting with Trump along with other congressional leaders, McConnell went up early and did not go to the press conference, something his assistants later said he would have stayed with had he known.
A few weeks later, Democratic aspiring star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) also raised questions about McConnell's involvement and launched a social media campaign targeted at #WheresMitch.
Ocasio-Cortez and other first-term officials, including Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Katie Hill (D-CA), attempted to physically find McConnell in the Capitol and confront him about his inaction at standstill. When they could not find him, Ocasio-Cortez documented much of the search on Twitter.
We in the House do * our * work by reopening the bills, so why @senatemajldr is not doing his job?
We left letters to:
– His Sen Majority Leader office
– The GOP dressing room
– The Senate Floor
– His Senate office
– Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@RepAOC) January 16, 2019
This hashtag has had a life of its own ever since.
The firefighters who responded to the Lincoln National Forest fire are federal refugee workers. It seems Senator Mitch McConnell considers the wall more important than paying the firefighters who saved people's homes. #WheresMitch https://t.co/Dxu8jXKwvw
– Congresswoman Deb Haaland (@RepDebHaaland) January 22, 2019
Until this week, McConnell had decided to do so Expenditure the house had passed to reopen the government was that none had the support the president needed.
"If the president does not sign anything, it makes no sense to try, right? A spokesman for McConnell said about the reasons of the Senate leader.
hey @brianschatz How many bills did McConnell bring to the Senate to reopen the government since the closure began? I lost the count.
– Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 16, 2019
It's zero. The number, as it turns out, is zero.
– Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) January 16, 2019
Crossing Trump could have grave consequences for Republicans
McConnells reluctance to let the Republicans cross the Senate underscores the implications for Republicans if break with the president.
A bag of vulnerable Senate Republican campaigning for re-election in 2020 – Sens. Cory Gardner (CO) and Susan Collins (ME) – may feel the heat, but it is in the best interest of the Republicans in which President, who is still very popular in many GOP countries.
An application from more than forty Republican senators and aides of Seung Min Kim and Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post found that most of Trump united in supporting Trump.
A public break with Trump would not only increase the risk of a potential primary challenge for several Republican senators in 2020, but also affect the actual position of many Republicans in terms of border security.
Most Republicans, while not necessarily enthusiastic about a wall, have long sought more aggressive border security measures and are technically on the same page with the President on this particular matter.
Even if Americans largely oppose the closure, Republican support for the wall has actually solidified in recent months.
Concern for the main challengers by 2020 is of great importance to many Republicans, including McConnell, who himself is ready for re-election in the next cycle. While McConnell is not particularly popular in Kentucky (his approval is a bleak 38 percent), political experts see no particular risk for him. However, Trump's approval rate in the state was more than 15 percentage points higher by December 2018.
The upcoming polls on Thursday could give McConnell the opportunity to start the closure
The results of Thursday's polls will eventually send a message to Trump and the Democrats.
If, as expected, Trump's proposal fails, this vote shows that the president does not have enough support for his full wall-mounted appeal. If the option of the Democrats fails, as it is expected, they would send a message that Democrats Trump must give something.
McConnell knew that the numbers were not meant for the Democrats' bills, which is why he did not pick them up, said Trey Grayson, former Secretary of State for Kentucky and longtime ally. Although many Republicans voted for a clean spending bill last December, the president's threat of veto completely changed the law.
The polls on Thursday are a classic embodiment of what Vox's Dylan Scott has noted: McConnell's strategy "Show them a body" – or trying to get votes that are doomed to fail – does not necessarily mean the stalemate quitting could help stimulate new movement around him.
"It looks to me like he took a former playbook from former house leaders like Boehner and Ryan and called for a vote, knowing that both would fail to show everyone involved that the votes were not there are and we need another plan, "Manley says about the votes on Thursday.