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Sen. Mitch McConnell: The Man In The Middle Of The Government Shutdown

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., listens as President Donald Trump talks to the media after a Senate Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Washington. At right is Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., listens as President Donald Trump talks to the media after a Senate Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2018, in Washington. At right is Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
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Find our buildout from this hour, featuring a partial transcription, here.

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the legislative arsenal to end the  shutdown. So, why isn’t he? We’ll look at why McConnell is sitting this one out.


Alec MacGillis, reporter at ProPublica who covers politics and government. Author of "The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell." (@AlecMacGillis)

Jasmine Farrier, chair of the political science department at the University of Louisville. She teaches courses on Congress, the presidency, separation of powers, parties and elections and powers of government.

Bill Straub, Washington-based political columnist for the Northern Kentucky Tribune and (@williamgstraub)

From The Reading List

KyForward: "Bill Straub: Think of all the great acts. Give big round of applause now for McConnell, Paul and Trump" — "In the past, we’ve had Laurel and Hardy, Burns and Allen, Abbott and Costello. Now we have McConnell and Trump.

"In an interview with columnist Fred Barnes, an acquaintance from the days of appearing on 'Issues in the News’' over the Voice of America, Senate Republican Leader Mitch 'Root-‘n-Branch’' McConnell, of Louisville, squealed like a four-year-old holding a double-scoop ice cream cone over the accomplishments he has helped manufacture during the first two years under the administration of President 'Tiny’' Trump (ugh!).

"McConnell told Barnes that he believes the past two years have resulted in 'the best two years right of center in the 34 years that I’ve been here.'

"Although Republicans weren’t 'in a totally dominant position' during that period – the GOP controlled the House, the White House and the Senate, although the latter wasn’t filibuster-proof – he exclaimed that 'even with a very narrow majority we fundamentally moved the country right of center in every way that we could for two solid years.'

"That was accomplished in two specific ways, according to ol’ Root-‘n-Branch, the reverse Robin Hood tax bill that essentially takes from the masses and gives to the rich, the appointment of right-wing judges of dubious abilities that Mitch and others pray will take us back to the days before The Enlightenment, and a deregulation frenzy that has rendered America a riskier place to reside."

Washington Post: "Mitch McConnell could end the shutdown. But he’s sitting this one out." — "President Trump is not the only person in Washington who could end this government shutdown now.

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could bring a 'clean' funding bill to the floor, free up his GOP caucus to support it and could quite possibly secure enough votes to override a presidential veto.

"McConnell already did it once, when he believed he had Trump’s blessing. Before the holidays he allowed a vote to keep the government running until Feb. 8, to avoid a shutdown and buy more time to negotiate Trump’s demand for border wall funding. It passed easily.

"But then Trump bowed to pressure from his base, House Republicans dared not challenge him, and the parts of the government that had not yet been funded were shut down."

Time: "How Mitch McConnell Is Working Behind the Scenes to End the Shutdown" — "President Donald Trump gave an Oval Office address and headed to the border. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have been holding regular press conferences to rebut him.

"But when the shutdown ends, it will likely be the handiwork of the leader who’s stayed offsides: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"The Kentucky Republican — who boasted in 2014 that he was 'the guy that gets us out of shutdowns' — has a long record of cutting the Gordian knot of legislative gridlock, especially, like now, when it’s a crisis of the GOP’s own making. He’s been conspicuously absent from the impromptu Republican press conferences lambasting Democratic intransigence, preferring to give his thoughts in brief speeches on the Senate floor while he works behind the scenes to find a way out.

"But his biggest obstacle may prove to be the president."

CNN: "As shutdown drags on, McConnell heads home to Kentucky, leaving Democrats angry" — "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was not in the Capitol Friday, when some furloughed federal workers missed their first paychecks and the government shutdown tied the mark for the longest in American history.

"McConnell, who has been brutalized by Democrats for blocking votes to reopen the government, skipped his customary remarks as the Senate gaveled in, when he might have defended his decision not to allow votes until a broad deal is reached between President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats over border wall funding.

"Instead, McConnell — who was headed home to Kentucky, according to his staff — and other Republicans largely left the floor to Democrats who gave speech after speech assailing them for not standing up for federal workers by standing up to Trump."

Brian Hardzinski produced this hour for broadcast.

This program aired on January 15, 2019.



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