Republican Majority, Day One: McConnell Surrenders

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If you watched the respective press conferences of Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell yesterday, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Democrats had just picked up a bunch of seats in the House and Senate, and the Republicans had just suffered a humiliating defeat. While President Obama was defiant and borderline delusional, claiming that the American people had not repudiated him and boldly proclaiming that he still had a mandate, and openly declaring that he would veto everything the Republicans sent his way and act on his own, Mitch McConnell was ruling out the use of the most potent weapons in his arsenal:

(Reuters) – U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Mitch McConnell68%Senate Republican AverageSee Full Scorecard68%, who is expected to become the Senate majority leader in January when Republicans take control of the chamber, on Wednesday ruled out government shutdowns or any default on the national debt on his watch.

Republicans scored major gains in congressional elections on Tuesday and will have majorities in both houses when the new Congress takes office early in the new year.

We’re not going to be shutting down the government or defaulting on the national debt,” McConnell said in his first news conference since winning re-election on Tuesday.

McConnell’s pre-emptive capitulation on this issue is baffling for a number of reasons. First, contrary to the predictions of the naysayers in the Republican caucus, the GOP paid no apparent political price at all for shutting down the government in 2013, even though then they were in much weaker bargaining position.

Second, it makes zero tactical sense, especially during a confrontation with a defiant and delusional enemy, to declare that you are pre-emptively removing a weapon from your arsenal. I think that I, like a lot of people, think that shutdown/default should probably not be used over the next two years. I think that there are some potentially disastrous consequences that could occur if either is utilized. It is much the same as being a country that is armed with nuclear weapons: probably, you are never ever going to use one, almost no matter what. But you dare not announce this to your enemy beforehand because 99% of the reason for having them in the first place is keeping the thought in the back of his mind that if he pushes you far enough, …read more    

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