McConnell breaks Senate tradition to obstruct Democratic campaigns: "He's resorted to cheap tactics"

How Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is making it more difficult for Democrats to reach their constituents

By Matthew Rozsa
Published September 13, 2018 9:56AM (EDT)
Mitch McConnell (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Mitch McConnell (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is using a sneaky trick to try to limit the ability of Democratic senators to campaign for reelection.

The Senate has a tradition of opening up its schedule in October so that incumbents running for reelection can engage in essential campaign activities, according to Politico. Yet, as the site reports, McConnell is not sticking to that tradition this year.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning to keep the chamber in session for a significant portion of October if not four entire weeks, costing Democrats key campaign trail days and allowing the Senate to continue its work into the fall, according to five Republican officials. The Kentucky Republican wants to keep cranking through as many lifetime judicial nominations and executive nominations as he can with his majority in the balance and the GOP still with the unilateral ability to confirm President Donald Trump’s picks.

"Senator McConnell knows his majority is at risk," DNC spokesperson Daniel Wessel told Salon by email. "It's no surprise he's resorted to cheap tactics, but that won’t change the fact that Republicans are running on a failed record of tax cuts for the rich and big corporations, health care sabotage and stagnant wages."

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The Democrats are already at a disadvantage in the upcoming Senate elections, because they have 24 incumbents who are up for reelection, while the Republicans only have nine incumbents who need to be elected for an additional term.

Even worse for the Democrats: They need to win in 10 states that were picked up by President Donald Trump during the 2016 election; in four of those states, they are considered to be very vulnerable. By contrast, Republicans are only sweating bullets over two of their incumbents: Sens. Dean Heller of Nevada and Ted Cruz of Texas.

The Senate elections are particularly important, because the House of Representatives is considered to be ripe for the picking for the Democratic Party. Statistical website fivethirtyeight.com gives Democrats a 5 out of 6 chance of picking up the House of Representatives – a feat that would effectively make it impossible for Trump and his fellow Republicans to push through a conservative agenda.

Although Republicans only have a 51-to-49 majority in the Senate, Democrats would need to hold onto all of their current seats and pick up both Heller's seat and Cruz's seat in order to have a majority in that chamber. In order to remove Trump from office (if the House of Representatives moved to impeach the president), they would need a two-thirds majority comprised of 67 votes — a number that is literally out of reach for them.

In other words, Democrats already have an uphill battle in the Senate, and McConnell's tactic just made it more steep.

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Democratic National Committee Donald Trump Mitch Mcconnell