Who Cares About Mitch McConnell? (UPDATED)
… I think something the press reaction to the election has thus far missed is that Mitch McConnell is now totally irrelevant. Instead, both McConnell and the press seem to be running with the idea that since pre-election McConnell was the most important congressional Republican and post-election congressional Republicans are now more important, that McConnell must now be more important.But this is wrong. For any bill to pass the House of Representatives, John Boehner needs to agree to it. And for any bill to be signed into law, Barack Obama needs to agree to it. Now you need to ask yourself, who’s in a position to blow up a Boehner-Obama deal in the Senate? Not Mitch McConnell, that’s for sure. The spoilers in the Senate are going to be rogue ideologues like Tom Coburn, Rand Paul, and Bernie Sanders who might plausibly defect from a bipartisan deal. The players in the Senate, if there are any, will take two forms. One is ideological faction leaders such as Jim DeMint (and . . . I dunno . . . Sheldon Whitehouse?) who could conceivable turn form legislative blocs capable of negotiating. The other is entrepreneurial dealmakers such as Lindsey Graham and Ron Wyden who could conceivably gin up legislative concepts that could become the basis for Boehner/Obama agreement.
But who cares what Mitch McConnell thinks? His main job is going to be coming up with stalling tactics to make confirmation of Assistant Secretaries of Commerce as annoying as possible.
Yglesias (and Josh Marshall) are among the few Internet commentators (at least, that I am aware of) who have pointed out McConnell’s seeming unawareness that he is still Senate Minority Leader. And correspondingly, Jonathan Bernstein at The New Republic is all but single-handedly puncturing the hot air balloon that passes for media commentary about Nancy Pelosi. After recommending the Yglesias piece, Bernstein writes:
Second, over on the House side, almost nothing the minority party does is very important, but nevertheless I’m glad to see Nancy Pelosi sticking around for Minority Leader because…well, because I get to say “told you.” Me, on October 7:
I’ve seen some outsider speculation about what Nancy Pelosi would do if the Democrats lose the House, but so far I don’t think I’ve seen any actual whispers against her that seem to come from inside her caucus. As far as I can tell, she can have Minority Leader if she wants it (and my guess is that she will, especially if modest gains in 2012 would put her back in the big chair).
One of the easiest calls I’ve made. Pelosi is a very, very good pol, and while I’m not a reporter and have no inside information, nothing has been reported that sounds even remotely like unhappiness with her. Yes, I know that some of the conservatives members of the caucus engage in a little liberal-bashing at her expense, but they and everyone know that the Democrats will have a liberal as their Leader in the House, and whoever that is will be demonized by GOP attackers.
Besides, in their hearts, I have no doubt that Pelosi isn’t even close to the top of the list of who House Democrats really blame for the 2010 cycle. My guess is that #3 on that list is Barack Obama; #2 is Rahm Emanuel; and, by far, lapping the field, #1 is the United States Senate.
UPDATE: Here are a couple of other bloggers providing much-needed counterspin on Pelosi:
- Libby Spencer:
Well count me as a member of Team Pelosi. The media clearly intends to run with the Blue Dogs but she already announced she is running. Sign the petition to let her know you support her. I even left a personal thank you note. She deserves it for the work she did for liberal legislation. Can’t remember if it was 206 or 406 bills she got passed that died in the Senate.
- Scott Nance:
After Tuesday’s rout, in which the Democrats lost their majority and with it, Pelosi’s hold on the speaker’s gavel, Pelosi could have just slipped away into history.
She could have done as Newt Gingrich did at the end of his speakership in 1999, resigning his seat and walking away. Or she could have followed her immediate predecessor, Dennis Hastert, who gave up leadership but simply stayed on in the House to represent his district before retiring.
Instead, Pelosi intends to run in January to lead the House Democrats’ shrunken ranks as minority leader.
More than that, this “San Francisco liberal,” who is really a tough fighter from Baltimore’s streets, may yet rise again as “Madam Speaker” in 2012.
That’s not wishful thinking; it’s history.
Not only one of the greatest House speakers, Sam Rayburn also served in the post longer than anyone else. But not as often remembered is the fact that Rayburn’s 17 years presiding over the chamber was interrupted by Republicans — twice.
Rayburn served as speaker from 1940-1947, 1949-1953, and finally, from 1955 to his death in 1961.
Each time his Democrats lost their House majority, Rayburn would hunker down as minority leader, soon to spring back as speaker.