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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

McCain Responds To ‘Nuclear Threat,’ Criticizes Tea Party Senators


Senator John McCain (R-AZ) took to the Senate floor on Thursday morning to scold members of his own party yet again, as Rand Paul (R-KY), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Mike Lee (R-UT) insist on blocking the Senate from sending its budget proposal to a conference committee with the House. What for most is a procedural action in passing a budget has turned into a partisan game for the three Tea Party senators.

McCain spoke out, saying, “If we continue to block things like this and block what is the regular order, than the majority will be tempted to change the rules of the Senate. That would be the most disastrous outcome anyone could imagine.” McCain was referring to warnings made in April by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Cabinet appointments have turned into a game for Tea Party senators, and Senator Reid has finally had enough, advising Republicans that this type of obstruction will not be tolerated, and suggesting his willingness to use the “nuclear option against Republican filibusters. After Republicans moved to block the nomination of three Obama appointees, Reid told a Nevada radio station, “All within the sound of my voice — including my Democratic senators and the Republican senators who I serve with — should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority. And I will do that if necessary.”

Cruz accused Democrats of using their majority power as a threat in order to increase the debt ceiling without any budget cuts. Cruz said, “This is all an avenue to allow the debt ceiling increase with 50 votes. This issue gets obscured by the procedural complexities and that’s not by accident.”

Lee warned colleagues that allowing this procedural conference negotiation would lead to “backroom, closed door deals.” In McCain’s Thursday remarks, the senior senator snapped, “Perhaps the senator from Utah doesn’t know about that — the fact that even if they did raise the debt limit, it could not become law because it doesn’t go to the president of the United States,” and adding, “So again, maybe the senator from Utah ought to learn a little bit more about how business has been done in the Congress of the United States.”

McCain continued to point out the foolishness behind this Tea Party logic: “Isn’t it true that the people that the [conference] would be held with on the other side of the Capitol happen to be a majority of our party? So we don’t trust the majority party on the other side of the [Capitol] to come to conference and not hold to the fiscal discipline that we want to see happen? Isn’t that a little bit bizarre?”

Reid’s threats not only caught the attention of Senator McCain, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as well. McConnell caved to Reid on Thursday when he agreed to allow a vote on President Obama’s nomination for U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In a unanimous vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the appointment of Sri Srinivasan to the D.C. Court—the first time this has happened since 2006.

Despite McConnell’s criticism that the Reid was attempting to “break the rules to change the rules,” the majority leader’s threats resonated with a few semi-reasonable senators across the aisle. Tea Party senators are relentless on the issue, however, determined to avoid a conference committee to discuss the budget. Yet between McConnell’s actions on Srinivasan’s appointment, and McCain’s sharp criticism of his Tea Party colleagues, Harry Reid and the Democrats may be making some progress.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

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  • sigrid28

    Reid’s threat to use the “nuclear option” is also timed to put Republicans on notice: The public is fed up over the way Congress wastes time in hearings about baseless conspiracy theories. Following the debate cited above, McConnell then wasted the Senate’s time by whining about the umbrage he takes over how the IRS may have “targeted” the Tea Party. It was the only way McConnell could devise to bully Reid into backing down. McConnell went on as if he were unaware that none of these supposed scandals seem to be convincing to voters, who still support the president and despise Congress, according to most recent polls.

    Like many liberals, I was disappointed when Harry Reid declined to change rules governing the filibuster in January when he had the chance–though he reserved the right to do so later, if necessary. Now a bit of his logic emerges. He appears to have decided to threaten to loosen the strangle-hold of the Republicans over the Senate bit-by-bit, first freeing up nominations, while threatening at some later time–very inconvenient to Republicans in Congress–to free up legislation as well. Meanwhile, the screaming we heard today on the Senate floor, over nominations being confirmed with a 51-vote majority, will reach the public at the same time voters are getting an earful of the theatrics put on by Republicans behaving badly during House and Senate committee hearings. I may be a simple person, but I am starting to like the Majority Leader’s plan.

    • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

      Sigrid, I have to disagree with you about Reid’s decision. He is aware that in any two-year cycle the balance of the Senate could change. What is to say that a simple-majority vote to deny the filibuster for the session would not result in a retaliatory vote if the Republicans take back the Senate (may God forgive us if that happens).
      The other problem is McConnell will not admit it, but he is running scared of the Tea Party. Based on their success in other elections in his state he worries that if he does not cave into the demands of these three novices who are playing at being Senators, the Baggers will run a campaign against his renomination for the Republican candidacy for Senate. The money and political capital he would have to spend to defend himself (moving farther to the right than he already is) would severely weaken him in the general election when he needs to attract independents.
      This is because (according to the Tea Party mantra) a single vote in support of any issue that the President favors is tantamount to being a card-carrying Socialist, those states with strong Tea Party elements tend to have Republican Senators with significantly more consistent voting records. States like Maine and New Hampshire are more likely to have Senators that vote based on the merits of the bills, not what the Koch brothers want.

      • sigrid28

        Thanks for this thorough analysis of McConnell’s peril. I thought exactly as you do about Reid’s decision until yesterday, when it seemed he had perhaps decided to try to do something about Republican intransigence. I have to agree with one other sound analysis I encountered yesterday, saying Reid may just be threatening this change, without any intention of enacting it, for the very reason you set out. It still remains a problem for both Democrats and Republicans in Congress that arcane rules governing the House and the Senate fly under the radar of the general public but the failure to govern by a majority of 50% or more is easily recognizable but INCREDIBLE to many Americans.

  • Paul Woolsoncroft

    Nice writing there Allison: “If we continue to block things like this and block what is the regular order, than the majority will be tempted to change the rules of the Senate.”
    It’s then not than. Which online school did you get your degree from? Apparently no editors at the National Memo.

    • Lynda Groom

      Did you listen to the tape of McCain’s comment from which the ‘quote’ comes from? Just asking.

      • sigrid28

        Watching and listening to this interchange on C-Span, I was struck that Senator McCain might have misspoken. C-Span does a great job of capturing even nuances, such as Justice Scalia sitting next to “Killing [fill in the president’s name]” O’Reilly at the Nerdprom. However, it can make technical errors in sound and video reproduction, which is not a surprise given the hours and hours of testimony it covers. More surprising is McCain’s impressive ability to keep his head and respond in kind extemporaneously, even when it comes to rogue members of his own party, as he did yesterday. I can forgive the National Memo a misspelling here and there because of its currency, superior fact-checking, and solid background research compared to other media outlets such as Fox News, for example.

      • idamag

        I watched the speech.

  • charleo1

    Is seem very obvious to me, that for the good of the Country, something
    must be done to stop the harmful, and maniacal, actions of the anti-American, aberration, calling itself, innocently enough, The Tea Party. That has over the
    span of just the last couple of years, metamorphosed from an ultra- Conservative,
    anti-tax group, concerned with the size of the Federal Government. To a radical
    infra-governmental, insurgency. That has managed to gain complete control of
    one of the two major political organizations in the Country. And I believe, with the
    far more sinister goal, of bringing down the entire structure of the United States, Central Government. By destroying, first the faith of the people, in that government. And finally by destroying the ability of the Government to function, in it’s role of administering the day to day rules of enterprise, and order. While providing for the security, and common defense. I do not claim to know how they plan on doing such a thing. I do not claim any special knowledge. In fact, it has been those with far sharper minds, and far better educations, who have given me the most pause, and trepidation. So, in my case, it is only by the most visceral of senses that I come to believe there is not one patriotic drop of blood in these scoundrels. Ted Cruz, even floating the idea, he didn’t trust the Republicans, to carry out whatever it is, he has in mind. Next up on their agenda, I believe, could be, to try to halt or reverse the hard won, economic recovery. Perhaps, this time, managing to push the Country into some kind of default, or create a crisis of confidence, over the debt, reauthorization. Whatever it is, if these turncoats have anything to do with it,
    it will not be good.

  • Sand_Cat

    They had the chance before and didn’t; why should the Republicans believe they will now?

  • That is, unfortunately, just another game being played. Reid is wont to change the rules because he knows the Republicans will cry and complain and scream “that’s not change!” to the press just like they did in 2009-10 when the Democrats had all three branches.

    Meanwhile, the Republicans caved to his threat, not because they’re afraid of him actually doing it, but because they know America is fed up with the gridlock and don’t want to look like they’re deliberately causing it (which they are, but they still hold onto the hope that we’re too stupid to have figured that out yet).

    • Independent1

      I’m not sure how this plays into your thinking, but keep in mind that the Dems have only had all three branches for 7 months out of the past 15 plus years – when Ted Kennedy died in August, 2009, about 7 Months after they took control in January 2009, Mass elected Scott Brown which put the Senate back in play for the GOP – and it’s really since then that McConnell has used the filibuster more than 400 times to block virtually anything that the Dems have wanted to get passed.

    • Michael Kollmorgen

      This could also pose a major problem IF they can change it to a simple majority. That could mean if republicans get a majority in the senate, they could reverse everything the democrats have in place.

      So, having a simple majority can cut both ways. I’m not sure at all if having just a simple majority is the way to go. We do need to change, however, these Filibuster Rules.

      • Hawkeye

        A simple majority cannot override a veto. Repubs have to flip 6 seats. 5 is only a tie leaving Biden the tie breaker, and still no where near enough to override a veto or convict on an impeachment.

  • docb

    Does mccain think Americans have forgotten he brought the tea baggers to the table and the limelight with palin the crazy? He never peeped when she spouted her idiocy on his behalf. Now we have real chaos and nothing working in congress and they are despised…26% approve of them and dropping!

    • idamag

      Congressional approval rating is 22%

      • docb has gone down since last I was 26% then! Where did that number come from?

  • idamag

    I watched McCain’s speech. He is becoming the man I thought he was, instead of palling around with the likes of Lindsey Graham and bullying people at hearings.