McConnell: House Dems Doing 'Political Performance as an Art Form' with Border Bills

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) talks with reporters on Capitol Hill on Jan. 2, 2019, after returning from a meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused House Democrats, who passed a pair of bills Thursday to end the shutdown that McConnell said won’t see the light of day in the upper chamber, of trying “to prioritize political performance as an art form ahead of the public interest.”

President Trump said McConnell wasn’t alongside him at an afternoon press conference following a White House meeting with congressional leaders “because he’s busy running the Senate.”

That included two senior members of the Republican caucus breaking ranks on the shutdown, with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) saying the Senate “should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open” regardless of Trump’s $5 billion border wall request, while Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said the Senate should be able to vote on the House package, which includes a bill to reopen all non-DHS agencies and extend homeland security funding through Feb. 8.

“We may have entered a new Congress since our last meeting, but the basic steps that are needed to end this unfortunate standoff have not changed at all. We’re in the same place. As I’ve said on several occasions — and as the administration has affirmed — any viable compromise will need to carry the endorsement of the president before it receives a vote in either house of Congress. Under these conditions, the package presented by the House’s new Democrat leaders yesterday can only be seen as a time-wasting act of political posturing,” McConnell said on the Senate floor today. “It does not carry the support of the president. In fact, the administration explicitly indicated yesterday the president would actually veto it. And it cannot earn the support of 60 of my colleagues here in the Senate.”

Knowing that “a solution will need to be palatable to House Democrats and Senate Republicans alike” as Dems “know that making laws takes a presidential signature” is something “we all learned … in grade school,” he added.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the floor today that the shutdown “impacts on the American people are getting worse with each passing day,” as “food safety inspectors, vital to our health and safety, are working without pay and with limited resources” and “our federal courts are running out of money.”

“Leader McConnell has shown himself to be an adept negotiator during previous shutdowns. Why is he abdicating his responsibility now? Why is Leader McConnell shuffling off to the sidelines, pointing his figures at everyone else and saying he won’t be involved?” Schumer continued. “Probably because he realizes this president, President Trump, is erratic, unreliable and sometimes even irrational. In sum, President Trump is a terrible negotiator. Given the unfortunate traits that reside in our president, I understand Leader McConnell’s reluctance to get involved. But in truth, they are all the more reason for him getting involved. America needs Leader McConnell to get involved to stop this shutdown. He can’t keep ducking this issue.”

Schumer said McConnell should allow a floor vote on the bills in part because “seven House Republicans – newly elected, under huge pressure not to – voted with these bills.”

“Democrats believe a border wall is an obtuse public policy and that we have much better, more effective, less wasteful ways of securing the border,” he stressed. “But we don’t have to have eight unrelated cabinet departments closed while we sort out our differences.”