Mitch McConnell, who can’t even control his closest allies
By Chris Cillizza
Mitch McConnell is the master of Senate rules and regulations. He proved that time and again during Republicans’ long, dark spell in the minority, using the arcana of the Senate rule book to stall or stop legislation that he and his side didn’t like.
That’s why McConnell’s mishandling of the Senate floor debate this past week over the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone data was so baffling.
The majority leader knew he had a fight on his hands to renew some of the controversial provisions of the Patriot Act that authorized the NSA program: The guy leading the opposition happened to be Sen. Rand Paul, his colleague from Kentucky and the person McConnell has endorsed for president in 2016.
When McConnell lost Round 1 of that showdown — the Senate adjourned for a week-long Memorial Day recess without voting on either the House-passed surveillance bill or its own version — everyone assumed that he was absorbing a tactical defeat to win the bigger war.
Nope. The Senate reconvened Sunday night, a few hours before the provisions were set to sunset, and again Paul, not McConnell, had the upper hand.
The veteran lawmaker’s actions “allowed a first-term senator . . . to use the Senate’s elaborate rules to delay things long enough to cause the entire USA Patriot Act to lapse for a couple of days, starting at midnight Sunday,” the Associated Press’s Chuck Babington and Laurie Kellman wrote about McConnell’s flub.
Paul lost on policy but won on politics: He scored lots and lots of attention for the suspension of the provisions for 48 hours or so. McConnell wound up taking the deal he could have taken long before — passing the House version of the legislation, which will end the government’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.
Mitch McConnell, for legislating yourself into a corner, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something.