Dissecting the Corruption Known as Mitch McConnell

Jane Mayer has published an excellent biography of Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate who has done more than anyone to destroy the Senate. The article is here.

A few excerpts:

Yarmuth, who began as a Republican and worked in a statewide campaign alongside McConnell in 1968, said that McConnell had readily adapted to the Republican Party’s rightward march: “He never had any core principles. He just wants to be something. He doesn’t want to do anything.”

…He’s truly the most corrupt politician in the U.S.”

“McConnell loves money, and abhors any controls on it,” Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, a group that supports campaign-finance reform, said. “Money is the central theme of his career. And, if you want to control Congress, the best way is to control the money.”

Money from the coal industry, tobacco companies, Big Pharma, Wall Street, the Chamber of Commerce, and many other interests flowed into Republican coffers while McConnell blocked federal actions that those interests opposed: climate-change legislation, affordable health care, gun control, and efforts to curb economic inequality.

“In a way, McConnell and Johnson are very similar. They both used the rules and procedures of the Senate with great deftness. But, in a more significant way, they couldn’t be more diametrically opposite. Johnson, for all his faults, in his later years used the rules and procedures to turn the Senate into a force to create social justice. McConnell has used them to block it.”

Norman Ornstein, a political scientist specializing in congressional matters at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, told me that he has known every Senate Majority Leader in the past fifty years, and that McConnell “will go down in history as one of the most significant people in destroying the fundamentals of our constitutional democracy.” He continued, “There isn’t anyone remotely close. There’s nobody as corrupt, in terms of violating the norms of government.”

The most famous example of McConnell’s obstructionism was his audacious refusal to allow a hearing on Merrick Garland, whom Obama nominated for the Supreme Court, in 2016. When Justice Antonin Scalia unexpectedly died, vacating the seat, there were three hundred and forty-two days left in Obama’s second term. But McConnell argued that “the American people” should decide who should fill the seat in the next election, ignoring the fact that the American people had elected Obama. As a young lawyer, McConnell had argued in an academic journal that politics should play no part in Supreme Court picks; the only thing that mattered was if the nominee was professionally qualified. In 2016, though, he said it made no difference how qualified Garland, a highly respected moderate judge, was. Before then, the Senate had never declined to consider a nominee simply because it was an election year. On the contrary, the Senate had previously confirmed seventeen Supreme Court nominees during election years and rejected two. Nevertheless, McConnell prevailed.

He has since vowed to fill any Supreme Court vacancy that might open this year, no matter how close to the election it is. Indeed, according to a former Trump White House official, “McConnell’s telling our donors that when R.B.G. meets her reward, even if it’s October, we’re getting our judge. He’s saying it’s our October Surprise.”