National Democrats are calling Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky “Senator Gridlock” as the Senate considers altering its filibuster rules.
For most of this week, McConnell has been in a sometimes heated exchange with Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada over blocking President Obama’s executive nominees.
Democrats are threatening to use so-called ‘nuclear option’ to break the gridlock, and McConnell has said that will make Reid the worst Senate leader in history if they do so.
“They’re not interested in checks and balances. They’re not interested in advice and consent. They’re not even interested in what this would mean down the road when Republicans are the ones making the nominations,” McConnell said earlier this week. “They want the power. They want it now. And they don’t care about the consequences.
Since 2007, Senate statistics show McConnell has used the filibuster 413 times as minority leader. That is almost twice as much as when Democrats held the minority from 1995 to 2001. Update: Since 2007, the Senate has invoked cloture, which requires 60 votes, 413 times. This is not the same as McConnell using the filibuster.
Democratic Senator Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky says McConnell has led an unprecedented tenure of blocking Senate procedures.
“Mitch McConnell should change his name to Senator Gridlock because he’s the walking, talking embodiment of everything that’s wrong with Washington. And he’s the number one reason for record-breaking levels of obstruction and dysfunction,” he says. “Senator McConnell has not only made things worse, but he’s actually embraced his role as the number one problem.”
Earlier this year, Reid and McConnell appeared to have come to an agreement over the use of a 60-vote margin to pass legislation or confirm presidential nominations.
Much to the displeasure of liberal groups pushing for a serious overhaul to Senate procedures Reid opted for weaker reforms, which McConnell’s re-election campaign bragged about. Even now, Reid is proposing to use the ‘nuclear option’ only in the cases of agency and cabinet nominations, but conservative senators have still decried the move.
The Senate has confirmed over 1,500 presidential nominees since Obama took office in 2009, adding McConnell warns Reid’s threat to overhaul the rules would gut the minority protections for both parties.
“The only crisis here is the crisis that Democrats are creating with their threats to fundamentally change the Senate—something the Majority Leader said just a few years ago he would ‘never, ever consider,’” McConnell said. “And here’s why he said that—because, to quote him again, going down this road is ultimately about ‘removing the last check in Washington against a complete abuse of power.’”
McConnell’s office points out that President Obama objected to rules changes when he briefly served in the Senate. And not all Democratic senators are on board with Reid’s push currently. In interviews with several media outlets, longtime Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan says he won’t go along with any of the proposed changes.
Poll numbers show voters blame both parties for the gridlock in Washington, but do believe Republicans are more responsible. A Quinnipiac survey released Friday found 71 percent disapprove of the way GOP lawmakers are handling their job compared to 62 percent towards Democrats.
And a review of the filibuster by minority leaders since 1988 shows McConnell’s tenure has seen a record-breaking use of the tactic. When former Republican Senator Bob Dole held the leadership position for eight years, for instance, he used the 60-vote filibuster approximately 250 times compared to over 400 by McConnell.
“Even Senator Dole who has the next most isn’t anywhere near the amount of obstruction that McConnell has done and it actually took more years to get a much lower number,” says Barasky.
McConnell and Reid are scheduled to appear separately on NBC’s Meet the Press this Sunday to discuss filibuster reforms.