A Brief Defense of Mitch McConnell

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Yes, I threw up a little in my mouth, writing the headline.

I think anyone who has followed my posts over my nearly two decades at RedState knows I don’t have a lot of use for Kentucky Senator and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. There are a lot of reasons for that, but mostly because McConnell would rather fail to be Majority Leader and retain a stranglehold over a cowed, stump-broken Senate minority than have to put up with a majority who will not toe the line. For decades, McConnell used abortion to keep the fundraising spigot open and sabotaged any attempt by the GOP to cut off federal funding.


In his defense, he kept Merrick Garland off the Supreme Court and packed lower courts with an all-star team of young conservatives. Yes, he did work with the Trump White House to do the latter, but he didn’t have to. He also rammed through Amy Coney Barrett in the waning days of the Trump administration; again, this was something that he did not have to do.

My point being that McConnell is duplicitous and can’t be trusted, but he does enough bad crap that it isn’t necessary to invent stuff to blame him for.

Yesterday, the Senate passed a massive, bloated spending bill. They did so when they could’ve killed the bill, passed a continuing resolution, and let a GOP House craft an alternative spending bill next year. McConnell spoke in support of passing the bill from the Senate well.


This is the full text of his remarks.

“President Biden’s proposal for fiscal year 2023 was a massive, real-dollar increase for liberal domestic spending and a significant real-dollar cut for the national defense.

“Thanks to tireless work from Senator Shelby and a number of our colleagues, the government funding bill that we’ll be taking up this week does exactly the reverse of what the Biden Administration wanted.

“This bill will significantly grow the baseline for defense and significantly cut the baseline for non-defense, non-veterans, after inflation.

“A big real-dollar increase for the defense baseline, and a big real-dollar cut for the non-defense, non-veterans baseline.

“This is an impressive outcome for the Republican negotiators, and more importantly, it is the outcome that our country needs — to keep helping Ukraine and our other friends; to keep out-innovating and outcompeting Russia and China; and to keep our brave men and women in uniform equipped with the best training, tools, and technologies the world has ever seen.

“The Administration’s original vision for the federal budget — starving defense, while shoveling cash into miscellaneous domestic spending — was so out of whack that Democrats in Congress have joined Republicans in rejecting it.

“Then there was some discussion that Democrats might only agree to make sufficient investments in our Armed Forces if they got to jack up domestic spending even higher, as compensation.

“Of course, that didn’t make any sense either. The Commander-in-Chief’s own political party does not get to take our troops hostage in order to demand even more unrelated goodies.

“Republicans’ position all along was very simple: Defending America and out-competing our rivals is a fundamental governing duty. It is the basic business that we’re supposed to take care of. Not something for which Democrats get special rewards.

“And that’s precisely what is finally happening. Compared to where the negotiations started, we have transferred huge sums of money away from Democrats’ spending wish list, toward our national defense and Armed Forces — but without allowing the overall cost of the package to go any higher.

“Now, there is no question that an omnibus spending bill less than one week before Christmas is not the right way to run the appropriations process or the Senate chamber.

“Things should be done differently. More responsibly. With more foresight and planning.

“And when Republicans controlled the majority, things were done differently, more responsibly, with more foresight.

“When Republicans last controlled both chambers, we worked to conduct a more normal appropriations process. The subcommittees were more empowered to do their work.

“We worked to break things into multiple bills and move minibuses across the floor before the 11th hour.

“Instead, as Republicans spent this whole year calling on the Democratic Leader to prioritize his basic responsibilities like government funding and the NDAA, this majority spent month after month chasing shiny objects while procrastinating on core duties.

“So I share many of my colleagues’ dissatisfaction with the dysfunctional Democrat-run process that’s brought us here.

“But unfortunately, as we stand here today, going back in time and forcing Democrats to spend the last 11 months running the Senate more responsibly is not an option. From where we stand today, there are two options before us.

“Number one: We can pass this bill; give our servicemembers and commanders the resources they need; flip the President’s broken budget request on its head; and actually cut baseline non-defense, non-veterans spending in real dollars while we’re at it.

“Or number two: We can fail to pass this bill and give our Armed Forces confusion and uncertainty while the Chinese Communist Party continues to help their military commanders pour money into new research and weapons.

“Between the two actual options before us, Mr. President, it’s not a close call. The Senate should pass this bill.”


After passage, he said this at a press conference:

Well, we’re moving toward completing the business for the year, and I think in a highly productive way — from the point of view of the vast majority of Senate Republicans. This omnibus bill — it’ll be on the floor — provides a real dollar increase for the Defense baseline and a real dollar cut for the non-Defense baseline — if you exclude veterans. That is absolutely critical and breaking the pattern we’ve had in the past when we’ve ended up in one of these situations where every time Republicans tried to get an increase in defense, we would in effect have to pay a ransom to the Democrats on the domestic side, wholly aside from the needs of the country. So let’s step back and say, “What are the real needs of the country right now?” In the defense part of our expenditures, making sure the Defense Department can deal with the major threats coming from Russia and China — providing assistance for the Ukrainians to defeat the Russians. That’s the number one priority for the United States right now — according to most Republicans. That’s sort of how we see the challenges confronting the country at the moment. So admittedly, I’m pretty proud of the fact that with a Democratic president, a Democratic House, and Democratic Senate, we were able to achieve through this omnibus spending bill, essentially all of our priorities.

What burned through social media was this clip from McConnell’s post-passage press conference.


You don’t have to like McConnell, wish him well, or even agree with his spin on the spending bill to see that the Twitter clip takes McConnell’s statement about Ukraine and destroys the entire context. It portrays McConnell as saying something he did not say in two different media appearances. I disagree with his assessment of this bill as a victory. I think the GOP got rolled on this, or they rolled themselves, and North Carolina Congressman Dan Bishop is doing great work showing the fraud, waste, and abuse baked into this bill (read the whole thread).

If you agree with McConnell that Russia and China are our two primary military threats, it is hard to see how you can disagree with the premise that having someone else kill a crapton of Russians is a good thing. On the other hand, if you don’t consider Russia a military threat, well, you be you.

At a minimum, no matter your stance on Ukraine, Russia, and China, we should all be in favor of using a politician’s actual words to criticize him; we shouldn’t stoop to making things up.



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