Wednesday, August 20, 2014

McConnell says his plan for policy riders on funding bills is not intended to shut down the government

In a wide-ranging interview with Manu Raju of Politico last week, published today, Sen. Mitch McConnell made clear that if he becomes Senate majority leader, he would use appropriations bills to force concessions from President Obama on environmental and other issues, including anti-coal and water-pollution regulations.

Raju described the strategy as forcing Obama to "accept bills reining in the administration’s policies or veto them and risk a government shutdown," and that brought almost immediate howls of protest from Democrats. But McConnell said after a forum today with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, "I didn't use that word at all. ... I'm the guy who gets us out of government shutdowns. I don't believe in government shutdowns."

McConnell told Raju, "We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy. That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it." Raju notes, "If Obama refuses to accept such measures, a government shutdown could ensue. Republicans bore much of the blame for last year’s government shutdown, which was prompted by conservative tactics McConnell opposed, and their fortunes rebounded only when the administration bungled the rollout of Obamacare."

The senator's main target is the Environmental Protection Agency, which has proposed to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants, a dagger to the already suffering Appalachian coal industry, and to extend its Clean Water Act regulations to all "waters of the United States," which McConnell called "every puddle in America" at a forum sponsored by the Kentucky Farm Bureau, whose national parent is a leading opponent of the idea.

Raju's story dealt mainly with the workings of the Senate, and he did not delve into policy details, but McConnell has already tried to add an EPA rider to an appropriations bill, and he made clear during and after the forum that those two regulatory efforts will be his targets if he is re-elected, Republicans take control of the Senate and he becomes majority leader. And he indicated that he hopes for some bipartisan leverage: "There are many Democrats who share our concerns."

UPDATE, Aug. 21: Democrats have been "firing back" at McConnell's "suggestion that Republicans, if they win control of the Senate, would possibly threaten to shutdown the government to force policy changes from President Barack Obama," reports Mark Murray of NBC News. White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer tweeted, "McConnell's case for a GOP Senate -- more shutdowns, more brinkmanship, more gridlock, less progress." Murray reports, Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said, "Once again, we're seeing that Republicans see government shutdowns as partisan tools, not economic disasters. It's exactly this kind of reckless gamesmanship that led to the last shutdown and is leaving the door open for another at the end of September. For the sake of our economy, this Republican Congress needs to take shutdowns off the table once and for all."

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