GOP’s Worst Kept Secret Exposed

Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey outed his party’s leadership when confirmed the worst kept secret in Washington:  Gridlock on Capitol Hill is not a result of deep disagreements on policy issues but something much more personal: a Republican desire to deny helping the President “do something he wanted to get done.”

Toomey was speaking about the defeat of gun safety legislation he had sponsored in the Senate, but he made clear that wasn’t an isolated example. Republican blocking of that bill had nothing to do with the merits but a partisan desire to make sure President Obama could not claim victory.

Here’s what Toomey told the Times Herald newspaper in Norristown, Pa.

 “In the end it didn’t pass because we’re so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.”

He didn’t mention names but it was clear he meant Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who was willing to ignore the support of 90 percent of the American people for expanded background checks on gun purchases just to make sure Obama suffered a defeat.  After all, he’s the guy who said his goal was to make sure Barack Obama was a one-term president, and when that failed spectacularly he didn’t waver.

Here’s what McConnell said in 2010:

‘The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

He is continuing to delay or block nominations for hundreds of officials.  He has led more filibusters than decades of Southern Democrats fighting civil rights before they switched to the GOP after they failed to block passage of the 1964 civil rights act.

McConnell seems motivated half by hatred of Obama and half by fear of a primary challenge next year by someone farther to the right than he is. Three years ago the candidate he backed for the Senate was attacked by Tea Party followers for not being conservative enough, and they nominated libertarian Rand Paul.  That experience haunts McConnell, who keeps looking over his shoulder to Paul and is terrified he could get the same treatment.  For McConnell, as for politicians of both parties, winning is everything, and the national interest is in a distant third place, far behind fundraising. 

Toomey’s statement effectively confirmed Obama’s comment at his press conference this week that GOP leaders refuse to cooperate with him because “Their base thinks that compromise with me is somehow a betrayal.”

The compromise legislation Toomey sponsored with West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin was doomed because Obama supported it, which is the same reason the NRA, which once supported expanded background checks, was so staunchly opposed.  All the other reasons opponents gave were mere transparent window dressing.

The Toomey-Manchin compromise had extensive support in the Jewish community and among Jewish organizations.

Senators like Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) who voted against the compromise have seen their public approval rating among constituents drop, while supporters like Toomey have had their poll numbers go up, Huffington Post reported.

In Obama’s first year alone there were a record 67 filibusters, double the number that occurred  in the entire 20 years between 1950 and 1969. McConnell went on to use filibusters or the threat of filibuster to kill more than 400 bills during in the 111the Congress (2009-2010), according to CNN, and he appears to be intent on breaking his own record.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.