Rather than consider bills to reopen government, McConnell keeps Senate arguing about Israel

The GOP-controlled Senate may take its third vote on proceeding to a likely unconstitutional bill that won't reopen government.

Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has blocked all consideration of bills to reopen the government in the current session.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday. He has blocked all consideration of bills to reopen the government in the current session. (PHOTO CREDIT: C-SPAN screenshot)

America’s longest-ever partial government shutdown gets longer and more harmful by the minute, but the one man with the power to bypass the president and resolve the situation is too busy focusing of arguing about Middle East politics to do anything.

Monday marks the 24th day of the government shutdown, making it the longest in U.S. history by three days. Trump’s refusal to fund large portions of the government unless Congress gives him billions of dollars to pay for a border wall he’d repeatedly promised would be funded entirely by Mexico has already cost the nation’s economy billions of dollars, left hundreds of thousands of federal workers struggling to make ends meet without paychecks, and left vital government services like food safety inspection effectively on pause.

The Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives (along with a dozen fed-up Republicans) has passed multiple bills to reopen all or parts of the government immediately. While these bills could become law with a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, notwithstanding any potential Trump veto, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has repeatedly blocked attempts to even give them a vote on the senate floor, calling them a waste of time.

While McConnell believes debating legislation to fund TSA screeners, border security agents, and the federal court system to be unnecessary, he has supported further debate about the Middle East. For the third consecutive week, the Senate is scheduled to spend Monday considering S. 1, the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019.


The bill, authored by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), contains a provision called the “Combating BDS Act of 2019,” which would allow local and state governments to discriminate against anyone using boycotts, divestment, or sanctions against Israel. The American Civil Liberties Union has fiercely opposed the bill on the grounds that those provisions violate the First Amendment’s guarantee of the right to participate in political boycotts.

Rubio’s bill does not, however, contain any provisions that would reopen any portion of the federal government. The Senate has already twice rejected motions to proceed to the bill, both times falling several votes short of the required 60-vote threshold needed. With nearly all Senate Democrats refusing to consider this or any other legislation until the government is reopened, the scheduled third attempt is almost certainly doomed to meet the same fate — though McConnell apparently does not see this as a waste of time.

After walking out of negotiations last week, Trump claimed in a series of early morning tweets on Monday that congressional Democrats were not around over the weekend to give into his demand for a taxpayer-funded wall.

Consistent with every other significant recent poll, a CNN survey released Monday morning found that Americans oppose Trump’s wall by a 56 to 39 percent margin and that 55 percent of Americans put most of the blame for the shutdown on Trump.