This is not the post you probably were expecting from me given my harsh — and as always prescient — criticism of Republicans in the lame duck session. I was screaming “capitulation!” before screaming “capitulation!” was fashionable.
Notwithstanding the lame duck session, give Mitch McConnell some credit for the war which has been fought the past two years.
When Obama took office, Republicans had been routed in two consecutive elections. With Democrats having an overwhelming majority in the House, and a near filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, there was not much the Republican leadership could do.
As I noted before, in my post Some of Our Finest Hours, a variety of players and people fought valiant political battles to slow down the Obama onslaught. Those battles, particularly over Obamacare, created the landscape which led to victories in 2010.
But there was only so much McConnell could do.
All Obama had to do was flip one or two Republicans on an issue, and the filibuster was meaningless. Yet, McConnell managed to keep Republicans on the same page as to Obamacare (as did John Boehner and Eric Cantor in the House), so that Democrats owned Obamacare completely.
In light of the November elections, the lame duck session has been something of a disaster. The “tax deal” has been spun — as I predicted — as an Obama victory and move to the center. In reality, it was neither, but perception is everything in politics.
But the defeat of the Omnibus bill was an enormous victory which will give the incoming Republican House a chance to kill Obamacare in its infancy, and to impose fiscal discipline. Again, McConnell managed to keep Republicans sufficiently together to kill the bill and force Harry Reid into his one humiliating defeat in the lame duck session.
Most of the damage in the lame duck session came, once again, from a handful of Republicans — some of whom are leaving office — not holding to their pledge to stall votes on any legislation until taxes and the budget resolution were passed. And as National Journal found, Lisa Murkowski was Obama’s best friend in the lame duck session; I’m not sure what McConnell could do about that.
But the lame duck session, as dismal as it has been, cannot define the past two years.
Against overwhelming odds in which the defeat of the Obama agenda was not possible, the best that could be hoped for was to get Obama and the Democrats stuck in the mud, to have them advance to places they did not want to be, and to set up the stage for the electoral counterattack.
I’m not a military historian or tactician, but I do understand the concept of prepping the battlefield. That is as true in politics as in war.
For his role in prepping the 2010 political battlefield, for getting Obama and Democrats stuck in the mud of their own creating, and for giving us the possibility of significant gains in the coming years, Mitch McConnell deserves our praise.