McConnell to GOP Populist Base: Let Business Groups Win in 2017

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

The GOP’s populist base can help win big battles for the party’s business donors in 2017, if it just shuts up for the next few months, GOP leader Sen. Mitch McConnell suggested in a low-drama interview with Politico.

McConnell offered nothing to the party’s populist base, except finger-wagging. The pro-life push to transfer funding away from abortion-giant Planned Parenthood “is an exercise in futility… that’s not going to happen until you have a president who has a similar view,” he said.

McConnell didn’t offer any opposition to President Barack Obama’s effort to amnesty millions of illegal immigrants, or his promise to bring in at least 10,000 Muslim refugees from Syria late this year. The amnesty issue split the party from November 2014 to March 2015, and has since boosted Donald Trump to the front of the GOP’s 2016 race.

Instead, McConnell touted wins compatible with business’ goals. “This is a critical election, in my view, about whether we want to continue to go down this European path, or whether we want to recapture the growth rates and the greatness we’ve had most of our history,” McConnell said. Obama is imposing “massive debt, high taxes on the most successful people, over-regulation.”

Instead of voting to transfer $500 million in funding away from abortion giant Planned Parenthood, he touted a bill that would curb abortions after 20 weeks — but didn’t suggest any tactics or strategy to ensure it is accepted by Democrats or Barack Obama. “What we are going to do is move to the pain-capable [20-week abortion] bill sometime this month and see how people feel about that,” he said.

But McConnell is following his usual strategy of delaying hard debate until he can fold his cards once President Barack Obama threatens to shutdown the federal agencies, said a Hill staffer. If McConnell wanted to win, he should start a debate early to pressure the Democrats into conceding, the aide said.

McConnell’s attitude, the aide said, is “God forbid we fight on it, let’s just completely capitulate on it from the get-go.”

In general, McConnell ”won’t bring anything to floor unless he knows for certain that Obama won’t veto it,” the aide said, adding “What was the point of electing Republicans to the majority?”

Yet McConnell will fight for his business donors, the aide said. “They fight against conservative goals, they fight in favor of Washington’s business lobbies and for the D.C. cartel at the expense of Americans,” the aide said.

In June, McConnell passed the fast-track trade law, which allows future free-trade bills to bypass much public opposition. He was aided by House Speaker John Boehner, who was initially defeated by a bipartisan majority in the House. But Obama, Boehner, McConnell, plus most GOP and Democrat Senators and most business groups, stuck together and passed the fast-track law.

McConnell’s pro-business strategy is driven in large part by his bet that business donations — not a populist strategy — will help him reelect nearly all of the 24 GOP Senators who must face the votes in November 2016. Only 10 Democratic Senators are up for election. McConnell is mostly playing defense, but is hoping to gain seats in Nevada and Colorado.

McConnell is also trying to protect GOP Senators from casting conservative votes that might annoy swing-voters next November.

In his Politico interview, McConnell said nothing about the issue that has split the GOP and turned the 2016 race inside-out — public opposition to massive annual inflow of roughly two million legal and illegal foreign workers into the U.S. labor market, alongside the annual arrival of four million American youths.

In fact, McConnell pushed business’ talking-points about a supposed labor shortage even though the low-wage economy has a workforce participation rate which has dropped back to the level of the 1970s. Companies supposedly have “a hard time finding people to do the work because they’re doing too good with food stamps, Social Security and all the rest,” he claimed.

In fact, fewer American women had jobs in August 2015 than had jobs in December 2007.

Until a new president is elected, McConnell is aiming to win small-ball fights on cybersecurity and a chemicals regulation bill.

But he’s also likely going to join hands with Obama to pass business-backed free-trade bills in 2016 that will force blue-collar American workers to compete directly with huge numbers of very low-wage Asian workers, and also allow companies to import huge numbers of foreign white-collar professionals for American-based jobs done by American graduates.

There’s also no evidence yet that McConnell will fight Obama’s plans to import many more low-wage government-dependent Hispanic and Muslim migrants, despite the nation’s high unemployment and underemployment rate.

In January, McConnell and his team cut deals with Obama that preserved funding for his planned amnesty in exchange for Democrats’ support for a give-away to the GOP’s Wall Street donors.

During that November-to-March fight, McConnell’s team did almost nothing to pressure Democrats into voting against Obama’s amnesty, or to work with the public’s strong opposition to his amnesty, which is supported by the GOP’s donors.

Obama’s amnesty, however, has been temporarily blocked by Texas courts.

Follow Neil Munro on Twitter @NeilMunroDC


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