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Sen. Mitch McConnell Is the Problem

One of the biggest problems facing America today is Senate Minority leader Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell.  Speaker of the House John Boehner is also a problem, but he legitimately has a Republican majority in the House.  McConnell does not have a majority but through misuse of the the filibuster, he has been able to require 60 votes to pass any meaningful legislation, and since the Democrats do not have 60 votes, he has been able to block any meaningful work by the Senate.  McConnell was a draft dodger during the Vietnam War, apparently escaping service because his mentor, Sen. John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky, intervened on his behalf with his draft board or with the Army.  If McConnell loved America he would have answered his country’s call during war, and he would be willing to work to salvage his country’s dire fiscal situation.

The Republicans’ veto power in the Senate has been particularly harmful in dealing with the country’s financial crisis, and is a major concern in the run-up to the “fiscal cliff” of automatic budget cuts at the end of the year. On fiscal issues, the Republicans and the Democrats are at loggerheads, and there appears to be no path to a bipartisan solution or to one-party rule.  Meanwhile, the country continues to run up huge budget deficits.  Clinton’s balanced budgets were due in large part to pressure from Newt Gingrich and his Republican majority, but today a similar scenario seems impossible.  The Republicans blame Obama, and he deserves some of it, but I think the main responsibility for the deadlock lies with the Republicans.

McConnell famously said in October 2010, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for Obama to be a one-term president.”  It would appear that the Republicans are ready to allow terrible things to happen to the US in order to defeat Obama.  Partisanship trumps patriotism   In that case, the Republicans appear to unlikely to act responsibly when we hit the “fiscal cliff.”  Even now, by refusing to compromise on raising taxes along with budget cuts, the deficit and the national debt just get bigger.

A starting point for a solution already exists in the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles report.  Obama is partly responsible for not pushing harder to do something with the report, but the House and the Senate are also responsible.  The most intransigent position is the Republican opposition to any tax increases.  It has made negotiation impossible.

I don’t personally know how to handle total intransigence.  I encountered it at the State Department in dealing with Reagan’s Defense Department.  Richard Perle and his office were usually opposed to whatever we at State were trying to do regarding stopping missile proliferation.  They wanted an absolute guarantee from other nations on the issue, i.e., the US had to be absolutely sure that other nations would not violate the agreement, but this is impossible when dealing with human beings or other nations.  We have laws against murder, but people still commit murder.  We have laws against speeding, but people still speed.  Refusing to outlaw murder because murder will still happen seems silly to me, but that was the Republican position.  I couldn’t figure out how to deal with it.  Although some other people eventually got a Missile Technology Control Regime agreement after I quit working on it because I was assigned to the embassy in Bangkok, Thailand.  I’m guessing they somehow figured out how to cut Richard Perle out of the loop.  But he showed how successful complete intransigence can be in stopping the government from working.

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