The Irrelevance of Mitch McConnell

To echo something Josh Marshall said this morning, I think something the press reaction to the election has thus far missed is that Mitch McConnell is now totally irrelevant. Instead, both McConnell and the press seem to be running with the idea that since pre-election McConnell was the most important congressional Republican and post-election congressional Republicans are now more important, that McConnell must now be more important.

But this is wrong. For any bill to pass the House of Representatives, John Boehner needs to agree to it. And for any bill to be signed into law, Barack Obama needs to agree to it. Now you need to ask yourself, who’s in a position to blow up a Boehner-Obama deal in the Senate? Not Mitch McConnell, that’s for sure. The spoilers in the Senate are going to be rogue ideologues like Tom Coburn, Rand Paul, and Bernie Sanders who might plausibly defect from a bipartisan deal. The players in the Senate, if there are any, will take two forms. One is ideological faction leaders such as Jim DeMint (and . . . I dunno . . . Sheldon Whitehouse?) who could conceivable turn form legislative blocs capable of negotiating. The other is entrepreneurial dealmakers such as Lindsey Graham and Ron Wyden who could conceivably gin up legislative concepts that could become the basis for Boehner/Obama agreement.

But who cares what Mitch McConnell thinks? His main job is going to be coming up with stalling tactics to make confirmation of Assistant Secretaries of Commerce as annoying as possible.