Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is having trouble controlling his Republican majority, and he may have more difficulties ahead as four GOP Senators are running for president.
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Rand Paul (R-KY) have declared their candidacies and are courting conservative primary voters who are often diametrically opposed to the more moderate McConnell on a wide range of issues.
As The Hill noted, just in the past month, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tom Cotton (R-AK) forced “a vote on amendment that would have killed legislation allowing Congress to review of a nuclear deal with Iran” and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) forced the expiration of the controversial data-collection provisions of the Patriot Act by preventing Senators from offering amendments to a trade bill. Their maneuvers hijacked the floor schedule and “forced McConnell to break his promise to allow an open amendment process in the Senate.”
McConnell has refused to criticize his fellow Republicans, telling reporters, “You’re trying to get me to make a derogatory comment about members of the Senate. I’m not going to do that.” When asked if the Patriot Act debate damaged his leadership, McConnell acknowledged that there would be more fights ahead, saying, “We had a divided conference on this. We knew it from the beginning, and it won’t be the last time.”
Iran, the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, the debt ceiling, and immigration are issues that may again test McConnell’s strength. According to The Hill, “McConnell promised to allow a vote on the bank in June,” but “it’s unclear how or when that will happen.” Graham has reportedly vowed not to back the GOP leadership “until we get a vote on the Ex-Im Bank.”
Rubio, who is highlighting his muscular foreign policy to make up for his more liberal views on amnesty, “could once again grab the Senate’s spotlight, potentially causing headaches for McConnell, if a final deal on Iran’s nuclear program is sent to the Senate for review.”
This fall, months before the early nominating contests begin, Cruz may use the looming vote to raise the debt ceiling to demand some concessions from the Obama administration.
And immigration may again be a wild card. Even though the GOP took back Congress by opposing President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty and without passing the comprehensive amnesty bill that the Republican National Committee’s “autopsy” report said the party had to support after the 2012 election, establishment Republicans are still convinced that the party must do something on immigration before 2016. As a result, Republicans may again try to team up with Democrats to, at a minimum, try to pass various bills, including one that would massively increase H-1B visas for foreign guest-workers for the technology industry even though there is no documented shortage of American tech workers.
All eyes will be on McConnell because 24 of the 54 Senate Republicans will have to defend their seats in 2016.