Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had an eye on November 2014 on Thursday.
Senate Democrats pushed through the nuclear option that morning, curtailing the use of the filibuster and drastically curbing the power of the minority. McConnell pointed to the next Congress as a time when he hoped that he, as the new Senate majority leader, could make a Democratic minority shoulder the consequences of that action.
But on Friday, a conservative group blamed McConnell and what they said was his “weakness” as a minority leader for allowing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to go nuclear.
Senate Conservatives Fund, an outside group who is backing McConnell’s primary opponent in Kentucky, political newcomer Matt Bevin, blasted McConnell Friday saying the rule change was his fault.
“Harry Reid did this because he knows Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will let him get away with it,” SCF Executive Director Matt Hoskins wrote in an email to the group’s supporters.
“The only way to deter a nuclear attack is to make it clear that the response will be equally devastating. Unfortunately, weakness is the only message Mitch McConnell has sent the Democrats on this issue,” Hoskins wrote.
McConnell’s campaign dismissed that argument as sheer idiocy.
“That argument is so profoundly stupid that it is hard to fully ascertain whether their deficiency is in math or logic,” said McConnell campaign communications director Allison Moore. “It does however help further illuminate why SCF is so bad at what they do.”
Twice already this year, in the face of Democratic threats to invoke the nuclear option after Republicans blocked nominees, the two parties have struck deals to avert the rule change, something Senate Conservatives Fund — which has repeatedly hit McConnell for his role in deals with Democrats, like the fiscal cliff deal on New Year’s Eve — amounted to capitulation.
“Each time Mitch McConnell capitulated, he said it would save the filibuster, but each time it encouraged Harry Reid to go even further. Now radical judicial nominees will sail through on a simple majority vote,” Hoskins wrote.
McConnell, when asked yesterday whether Republicans would now use other methods to stall nominees’ confirmations in retaliation for the move, said: “I don’t think this is a time to be talking about a reprisal. I think it’s at time to be sad about what’s been done to the United States Senate.”
“That’s it?” Hoskins blasted in the email. “Republicans are just sad? If the roles were reversed, Harry Reid and the Democrats would have shut down the Senate by blocking all legislation and by objecting to all procedural requests.”
In the face of the new rules, which significantly decrease the rights of the minority, barring them from filibustering executive and judicial nominees — with the exception of nominees to the Supreme Court — the pressure is on for Republicans to gain the seats necessary for them to regain the majority. Republicans are targeting a group of Democratic Senators who hold seats in red states like Louisiana, Alaska, and Arkansas, and some open seats, in the hopes of flipping the balance.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee lambasted SCF, saying they were making that effort more difficult for Republicans.
“The stakes are so high for 2014 – with the ObamaCare disaster, a ho–hum economy, $17 trillion in debt, and what will be a choice between a checkmated Barack Obama versus an Obama whose party retains control of Washington,” NRSC Communications Director Brad Dayspring said Friday. “The Senate Conservatives Fund’s tactics, whether intended to or not, help Harry Reid and Barack Obama and hurts conservatives and Republicans. It’s great for lining the pockets of their operatives, it’s counterproductive if the goal is a conservative Senate MAJORITY.”