As The Nation reported yesterday, Senator Mitch McConnell was a featured speaker on Sunday at the Koch brothers’ secretive conference for billionaire Republican donors at a swanky California resort. McConnell reportedly held a “strategy discussion” with Koch legal operative Mark Holden on his favorite topic: freeing up unlimited and unchecked campaign contributions and spending from America’s wealthiest donors, which is what the First Amendment intended. According to an attendee, part of that strategy is a goal to raise $500 million for Republicans to take control of the Senate in the 2014 midterms, and $500 million more to take the White House in 2016.
This background, as well as McConnell’s voting record, made his statements on the Senate floor this morning all the more remarkable.
In his speech, McConnell said that despite the “political theater” of Senate Democrats, Republicans are actually the ones out there fighting for the little guy—the underpaid middle class, working moms and college students—and fighting against the “well-off” and “well-connected” interests who attempt to rig the political system in their favor.
Yes, political theater is so, so terrible.
McConnell said that Senate Democrats are trying to hide the fact that Republicans are “quietly assembling a lot of good ideas aimed at helping middle-class Americans deal with the stresses of a modern economy” and “working overtime behind the scenes to make their lives easier or paychecks bigger for working moms and recent college graduates.” Those “quiet” and “behind the scenes” ideas “address the concerns and anxieties of working men and women whose wages have remained stubbornly flat during the Obama years, even as the cost of everything from college tuition to healthcare continues to soar.”
McConnell added that these ideas are consistent with the GOP’s longstanding commitment to their principle of ensuring government has “a shared responsibility for the weak”—an amazing claim that he first trotted out last month, days after his Republican primary victory.
McConnell concluded: “While Democrats have been plotting on ways to hold onto their majority, we’ve been listening to the concerns and anxieties of our constituents and figuring out new, creative ways to address them. It’s long past time we had a real debate in this country, instead of false choice Democrats constantly present to the public between their own failed ideas and some political villain that doesn’t exist.”
This nonexistent “villain” that McConnell alludes to may be his own party, or it may be the figures who Democrats have been trying to tie around the neck of Republicans for many months: Charles and David Koch, the gracious resort hosts of McConnell and billionaire donors last weekend who seek to buy Washington, DC, and turn it into their own deregulated wonderland of plutocracy. And with the strict security at the Koch summit, one might even call such plotting “quiet” and “behind the scenes,” in favor of the “well-off” and “well-connected.” But how dare the Democrats plot about winning Senate elections, right?
McConnell’s concern about stagnant wages and his desire to make “paychecks bigger” for working moms and young people doesn’t need a behind-the-scenes approach, but it might require raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which McConnell strenuously opposes and his campaign manager called “class warfare.” Some of those working moms might even be helped by very public legislation to prevent wage discrimination against women, though McConnell has voted against the Lily Ledbetter Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.
If McConnell is concerned about rising tuition costs and the bank account of recent college graduates, he also could have chosen not to filibuster and block Senator Elizabeth Warren’s bill to allow graduates to refinance their student loans and avoid decades of crushing debt—if the Koch summit attendees don’t mind that legislation closing their tax loopholes, of course.
McConnell is also concerned about the rising costs of healthcare, though I’m not sure how repealing the Affordable Care Act—and taking away the healthcare coverage of over 400,000 Kentuckians who gained insurance through the state’s exchange, Kynect—will ease that concern.
And this “shared responsibility for the weak” that McConnell says he adheres to? I’m not sure who is the “weak” he refers to, but if that includes people who have had their unemployment insurance cut off, SNAP benefits cut, or undocumented immigrants looking for comprehensive immigration reform, McConnell and his Republican colleagues probably shouldn’t have worked so hard to stick it to these individuals.
Yes, political theater is so, so terrible.
While liberals and environmentalists may be nauseated by Alison Lundergan Grimes’s positions and rhetoric on coal and the EPA, she presents an extremely clear contrast on the issues McConnell played loose with this morning. Grimes has touted her support for an increase in the minimum wage since the day she announced her candidacy last July; she supports equal pay legislation; she supports a Constitutional amendment to roll back the Citizens United decision;, and she supports Warren’s student loan bill.
Warren is even coming to Kentucky soon to campaign for Grimes, highlighting McConnell’s vote against student loan reform and his obedience to the whims of billionaires hanging out in private California resorts who plot how to make the wealthy and powerful even more so.
The Warren-Grimes event may even be out in the public, where the little guys can hear it.