McConnell has for months now been the plug halting nearly every piece of legislation Democrats pass through the House, including gun measures that enjoy bipartisan support.
The Kentucky Republican is so well known for his obstruction of Democratic priorities that he’s bragged about it.
“That’s why I call myself the Grim Reaper,” he said of Democrats during an appearance at a Kentucky political event over the weekend. “I’m killing their socialist agenda.”
His campaign tweeted a photo of homemade yard sign headstones, a questionable move coming hours after the shootings in Texas unfolded.
The lack of action on legislation in the Senate has cleared space for Republicans to pack open seats on federal courts, a worthy aim in the minds of many conservatives and a legacy-builder for Trump, but maybe not the top priority of every American.
McConnell shows no sign of buckling. Far from acceding to Democrats’ demand on background checks, he called three Senate Republican committee chairmen to urge them to have bipartisan talks over legislation reflecting what Trump outlined Monday.
“Partisan theatrics and campaign-trail rhetoric will only take us farther away from the progress all Americans deserve,” he said in a statement.
McConnell’s fellow Republicans in Congress — in their home districts for the August recess, likely far from Capitol Hill reporters’ questions — are unlikely to be any more eager to act on gun legislation.
Democrats apply pressure
Democrats hope the pressure on McConnell after the shootings can help force their bills onto the Senate floor.
“It is incumbent upon the Senate to come back into session to pass this legislation immediately,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a joint statement, calling on McConnell to cancel the Senate’s summer break to debate the gun bill that passed the House back in February.
On Twitter Sunday night, “Moscow Mitch” had given way to a hashtag #MassacreMitch to pressure him over gun legislation.
Pelosi, in a conference call with Democratic lawmakers, said pressure must be applied directly to McConnell to bring up what Democrats have already passed in the House even as they consider new measures, like an assault weapons ban.
“The President and Mitch McConnell have to feel the public sentiment on this,” she said, according to a Democratic aide. “We have a golden opportunity to save lives.”
“The key is the bottleneck in Kentucky, and the gentleman from Kentucky needs to, as I’ve said many time, he needs to get off his ass and get to work,” Ryan said.
There does seem to be some movement toward consideration of new federal grants to help states enact “red flag” laws. And that might be good legislation, but it’s far from any sort of sweeping legislative statement. And while Republican and Trump whisperer Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina GOP senator, and presidential daughter Ivanka Trump like the idea, let’s wait for McConnell to weigh in before assuming it could see actual action.
Senate in recess
There is some indication that McConnell is not immune to scrutiny and pressure.
In fact, if past tragedies are an indication, the public and the news media could soon be distracted by some other crisis. There are any number of issues — from Trump’s trade war to his standoff with Iran to the situation at the southern US border — that could boil over at any moment and distract people, again, from gun laws.
Even if Democrats cannot get their background checks proposal onto the Senate floor, they have a vocal challenger who could give McConnell a real contest in his bid for reelection next year.
Amy McGrath is a former military pilot and the first Marine to fly an F/A-18 in combat. She took umbrage at McConnell’s campaign putting her name on a mock gravestone.