Mitch McConnell — the Republican Senate's invaluable engine

Mitch McConnell — the Republican Senate's invaluable engine
© Greg Nash

This week, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDoug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh gets questionnaires for confirmation hearing Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (R-Ky.) celebrated his tenure as the Senate’s longest-serving Senate Republican leader in history. It’s a remarkable feat, as leaders routinely come and go in Congress. That’s what makes McConnell’s tenure stand out even more — his ability to persevere over time, time that eventually runs out for Senate leaders. He’s the Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer of politics — tenacious, vigorous, persevering and repeatedly victorious, always giving his all in competition.

Born on February 20, 1942, McConnell has been around the block, recognized by his peers and his beloved constituents as a leader worth following. Kentucky educated, he was first elected to the U.S. Senate by his constituents in 1984, succeeding Sen. Walter Huddleston (D). He’s had little electoral anxiety as he’s Kentucky’s longest serving senator. Last elected in 2015 by his Senate peers to serve as majority leader, he was also reelected to the U.S. Senate that year.

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McConnell is a truly conservative Republican senator, but he’s also wily and experienced, often thinking and planning how to out-maneuver the opposition. One who doesn’t disdain the idea of compromising with the opposition, McConnell seeks to move America forward, always seeking common ground punctuated by his conservative principles. Sometimes criticized by President TrumpDonald John TrumpSasse: Trump shouldn't dignify Putin with Helsinki summit Top LGBT group projects message onto Presidential Palace in Helsinki ahead of Trump-Putin summit Hillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' MORE for his “establishment” credentials, McConnell brings his experience to the Senate — he likely shudders at some of the unconventional tactics, not borne of history, of the president — but he’s been loyal to President Trump, using his tactical skills to assure appointment success. Credit McConnell with success of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, and other nominees, too.   

 

In 1993 he married the smart and lovely Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoMcConnell: I won't be intimidated by protesters Protesters confront McConnell leaving Kentucky restaurant The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — Wild night of primaries reshapes 2018 midterms MORE, currently Trump’s secretary of Transportation. They are a power couple in the nation’s capital, with McConnell’s wife having served extensively in government and as a senior appointee under three prior Republican presidents. She brings wisdom, judgment and experience to government, complementing her husband’s own responsibilities.

Sometimes McConnell at times unfairly bears the brunt of conservative criticism, but he brings reason and wisdom to today’s debate over public policy. The criticism often comes from those who largely support Mr. Trump, but there are other detractors as well. There is no finer cheerleader, though, for Republicanism in the Senate today than Mitch McConnell. Without McConnell at the Senate helm, President Trump’s administration would be hurting.

Most recently, McConnell was smart to deny the Senate most of its August recess, thereby slyly putting his experience to good use. Not only will this give Congress more time to work, Democrats seeking reelection in 2018 will likely be prevented from campaigning back home. Republican challengers to incumbent Democrats will be advantaged, and they should thank McConnell.  

McConnell should also ignore the periodic criticism from Trump supporters, Anything he says will likely be criticized by naysayers who support the president. McConnell is wise to remain mostly silent. He can simply take pride in knowing that his constituents and his peers, other prominent Republican Senators, have faith in his leadership, wisdom and strategy.

There is simply no other like him in the Senate. Generous to challengers, supportive of incumbents and forward-thinking about public policy, McConnell has been right about many matters that touch American lives. He carefully shepherded the Trump tax measure through the Senate, providing the president with a major legislative victory. He works well with both House and Senate leaders. They respect him, knowing that he will support them in difficult times.

Some may argue that McConnell has been around Washington, D.C., too long — that he’s part of the swamp that needs cleaning. Such talk is nonsense, because McConnell brings sound judgment and knowledge borne of experience to bear in public policy matters, something any American President needs, whether he knows it or not. Though the cemetery is filled with indispensable people, McConnell has helped President Trump achieve legislative victories otherwise lost if Democrats controlled the Senate. So, Mr. Trump should praise Mitch McConnell for his leadership skill and actions in support of the president’s agenda. Without them, Trump’s priorities would be left as ideas, not policies, thanks to McConnell.

As Mitch McConnell celebrates his fine record of Senate leadership, he can take pride in knowing that he’s secure at home, secure in his current leadership position and secure in making America all it can be.

George Nethercutt is the former Republican Congressman from the 5th District of Washington and a former member of the National Security Appropriations Subcommittee.