As government shutdown drags on, where is Mitch McConnell?

U.S. Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks throughout a media briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

When President Donald Trump stormed out of a White Home assembly with congressional leaders last Wednesday, U.S. Senate Majority Chief Mitch McConnell sat there silently, uttering not a word as the talks blew up, in line with others within the room.

The No. 1 Republican in Congress, who rose to energy on his status as a master of legislative wrangling, has had little to say in public or personal throughout a partial federal authorities shutdown that started on Dec. 22 and has no end in sight.

Displaying little interest in defying his president and Trump’s demand that triggered the shutdown for funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall opposed by Democrats, McConnell has stored a low profile. This posture, allies and opponents stated, is about McConnell protecting himself, weak Republicans and their control of the Senate ahead of the 2020 elections.

At the core of McConnell’s quiet loyalty to Trump, despite previous friction between them, is a calculation that Trump’s reputation with Republican voters makes standing by him, in the long run, politically wiser than responding to brief-time period worries concerning the shutdown, aides and specialists stated.

“The leader is prepared to interact, but the leader all the time needs to be able to look forward and see the two or three different strikes forward of the fast move,” Republican Senator Thom Tillis advised Reuters, referring to McConnell.

The cost of this long-term focus, Democrats stated, is that McConnell has ceded control of the Senate to Trump all through the shutdown struggle by pledging to block any shutdown-ending laws the president would not signal.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who helped negotiate an finish to an earlier shutdown, stated this of McConnell’s absence from negotiations: “Principally, that’s what’s holding all the things up.”

Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the Democratic-managed Home of Representatives, is passing shutdown-ending spending bills in her chamber, including one on Friday. If McConnell would solely put those measures on the Senate flooring for a vote, Democrats argue, senators from both parties would help them.

That may then strain Trump, in response to the Democrats, to sign the payments into regulation and reopen government, even if the measures lacked the $5.7 billion in wall funding he’s demanding. McConnell has made clear this won’t happen.


Twice now, House Republican leaders Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise have emerged from excessive-degree White Home shutdown talks to deal with reporters, once with Trump and as soon as with Vice President Mike Pence. Whereas McCarthy and Scalise went to the microphones, McConnell returned unobtrusively to the Capitol.

A senior Democratic aide described McConnell’s demeanor in conferences with Democrats concerning the shutdown as extra “subdued” than when he helped finish earlier shutdowns.

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