Early Returns

The Clock Starts Ticking for Mitch McConnell

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

The good news for Mitch McConnell is that he's not going to have long before his next tests as Senate majority leader -- there's still a budget to be agreed on, a debt limit to be increased, and spending bills to fund the government passed. 

The bad news is that Paul Ryan and the House succeeded in dumping the blame for Obamacare repeal's failure mainly on him, at least so far, and that McConnell seems to have seriously harmed some of his relationships with Senate Republicans. To some extent, it's straightforward: Some Republicans believe McConnell was double-dealing, and no one survives as a party leader very long if his or her word can't be trusted.

But as former Harry Reid staffer Adam Jentleson explained in a fascinating Twitter discussion, there's more to it than that. As he sees it, McConnell has consistently asked Republican senators to sacrifice their individual influence in the chamber in order to strengthen the party. If that's correct, then failing to achieve the party's top agenda item (or at least the top agenda item from their campaigns) could be very damaging, since all of a sudden these senators may question why they've given up so much and received so little in return. 

This is no small question. Two centralizing speakers of the House, Democrat Jim Wright and then Republican Newt Gingrich, were abandoned by their parties for exactly that reason: They created an overly centralized policy process. Once an excuse was found, neither survived. And senators are traditionally far more protective of their individual influence than members of the House. 

As an outsider, I find it hard to guess just how serious any of this is for McConnell right now. I can say, however, that majority leader is a very different job than minority leader, and that majority leader in a unified party government is very different than the same job with a divided government. I can also say something that everyone knows: The president of the United States is an impulsive man who certainly isn't going to accept any responsibility for anything that goes wrong, and he will be looking for a scapegoat. None of this is apt to make the Senate majority leader very comfortable. 

1. Sheri Berman at the Monkey Cage on liberalism and democracy.

2. Dave Hopkins on the Republican failure on health care

3. Denise-Marie Ordway on new research about which members of Congress get TV time and print coverage.

4. Jonathan Chait on the Republican health-care debacle

5. Greg Sargent on forcing a vote on repeal-and-delay.

6. Fred Kaplan on Donald Trump and the Iraq nuclear deal

7. And David Leonhardt invites his readers to consider changing their minds about something over the summer. 

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    To contact the author of this story:
    Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor responsible for this story:
    Brooke Sample at bsample1@bloomberg.net

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