Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pledged to strong arm President Obama into adopting a host of Republican policy priorities, from repealing the Affordable Care Act to undoing environmental regulations, should Republicans take back the senate in November. In the process, the Kentucky senator appeared to undermine his pledge to avoid future government shutdowns.
In an interview with Politico published on Wednesday, McConnell laid out a plan of attaching policy riders to must-pass spending measures and forcing Obama into a standoff: sign off on the bill or close down the federal government.
“We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy,” McConnell told the publication. Obama, McConnell added, “needs to be challenged, and the best way to do that is through the funding process. He would have to make a decision on a given bill, whether there’s more in it that he likes than dislikes.”
But the remarks appear to contradict a guarantee McConnell delivered in October, in the aftermath of the 16-day-government shutdown led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Throughout that period, McConnell blamed Democrats for shutting down the government by refusing to delay parts of Obamacare and urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to find a workable compromise. But after the two parties came to a deal — that excluded any major changes to the health care law — McConnell appeared on CBS’ Face The Nation and promised to keep the government open.
“[T]here will not be another government shutdown. You can count on that,” he said. “I don’t think a two-week paid vacation for federal employees is conservative policy. A number of us were saying back in July that this strategy could not and would not work, and of course it didn’t,” McConnell added.
Politico reports that Republicans have also “discussed using the procedural tool known as budget “reconciliation” to make it easier to pass legislation by avoiding filibusters,” though McConnell himself would not commit to the controversial tactic.
Under the rule, the Senate can pass budget-related changes with a simple majority vote — eschewing the 60-vote threshold the body usually requires to advance and pass legislation. Throughout the health care reform debate of 2009 and 2010, Democrats relied on reconciliation to pass a series of changes to Obamacare and Republicans blasted the opposing party for skirting Senate rules to “ram through” unpopular legislation. McConnell himself described Democrats as “arrogant” for pursuing the tactic.
Since winning back the House in 2011, Republicans have repeatedly tried to attach measures repealing Obamacare, demanding the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, or blocking funding for limiting carbon dioxide emissions to important spending bills. Some in the party have also floated using the reconciliation process to undermine the health care law. Speaking to Politico on his campaign bus, McConnell hinted that the he will ramp up use of these tactics should Republicans prevail in the 2014 elections. “That’s something [Obama] won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it,” McConnell said.