Mitch McConnell. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
After spending the better part of a decade obstructing majority rule in the US Senate, and preventing the Congress from acting on fundamental issues that are of concern to the great mass of Americans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has figured out who is to blame for mistrust of government: public employees and their unions.
Declaring that he wants to open up a “serious national debate” about public-sector unions, the Kentucky Republican came out swinging at a Friday event with the American Enterprise Institute. “They are the reason so many state and local municipalities are flat broke,” he said of unions that represent public employees at the local, state and federal levels of government. “They’re behind the unsustainable expansion of public pensions. They’re a major problem.”
McConnell even went so far as to suggest that unions are to blame for inappropriate targeting for extra scrutiny of requests for charity exemptions from groups with Tea Party ties.
Referring to the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents Internal Revenue Service workers, the senator asked: “Why would we even expect a public employee—whose union more or less exists to grow the government—to treat someone who opposes that goal to a fair hearing?”
The senator has also suggested that President Obama’s criticisms of conservative groups influenced choices made by IRS employees.
But when he is pressed on the issue, McConnell backs off—trying to have it both ways with a line about how: “The president and his political allies encouraged this kind of bureaucratic overreach by their public comments. But that’s quite different from saying they ordered it. I think with regard to who’s actually responsible for it we need to find out, and that investigation will go on for quite some time.”
So why is McConnell bashing the NTEU?
As NTEU President Colleen Kelley told The Hill, the senator “has long…opposed the existence of public sector unions.” NTEU is not the only target of McConnell’s wrath. He’s generally upset with public-sector unions: the American Federation of Government Employees; the National Weather Service Employees Organization; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the International Association of Fire Fighters… you name it.