Now that it appears the United States won’t be a deadbeat and will reopen its government, I feel compelled to give a shout-out to someone who certainly doesn’t need or want my praise: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Sure, the Senate minority leader worked my last nerve three years ago when he told the National Journal, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” And McConnell did everything possible to make his failed dream come true. But when he had to choose between playing politics and governing, the five-term senior senator from Kentucky chose governing.
Sean Sullivan at The Fix catalogs McConnell’s triumphs, so I don’t have to. But it doesn’t hurt to point out that when the nation faced fiscal armageddon in August 2011, December 2012 and this week, McConnell was the Republican who hammered out a deal with the Democrats and the White House.
Yes, it’s true that McConnell wasn’t exactly champing at the bit to reprise his closer role this week. Not only is he up for reelection, but he also is facing a vigorous primary challenge from his right. Only the tea party would think that McConnell, among the most consistently conservative legislators on Capitol Hill, isn’t conservative enough. But with the clock ticking toward destruction of the full faith and credit of the United States, McConnell came out of his self-imposed hiding to choose governing over his political future.
This says a lot about McConnell. But it also says a lot about Speaker John Boehner. The embattled House leader can never deliver a deal. And this criticism applies to his “leadership team,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, who have allowed Boehner to embarrass himself by bringing to the floor or floating countless bills that go nowhere.
Rather than lead his caucus, Boehner is led by it. So, when the president and congressional Democrats needed a Republican they could work with to work out a deal acceptable to all sides, they turned to McConnell. This time the deal is to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling. A short-term deal, but a deal nonetheless. And this could only happen because, despite the tea party purity infesting the Capitol, he has not forgotten the art of governing. The needs of the nation should always come first.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj