WASHINGTON ― It’s possible to shame Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) into action despite his record of blocking Democratic initiatives and nominations, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday.
“It seems Jon Stewart is having an effect on him on the 9/11 bill, so yes, I think it’s possible,” Schumer told HuffPost during a news conference on Capitol Hill, referring to the former host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”
Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, tore into McConnell last week during an interview on Fox News. He accused the Senate majority leader of slow-walking a bill that would authorize compensation for first responders and survivors still suffering from conditions related to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
“Many things that Congress does happen at the last minute,” McConnell said Monday in response. “We’ve never failed to address this issue. And we will address it again. I don’t know why he’s all bent out of shape.”
McConnell has not yet said when he’ll bring to the floor legislation that would permanently reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which is nearing depletion and expires in 2020. Congress has previously dealt with the matter by attaching it to other must-pass bills.
The Kentucky Republican has also steadfastly refused to allow votes on any Democratic bills passed by the House, including legislation on gun control, equal pay, lower prescription drug prices, and additional protections for preexisting health conditions. The blockade has frustrated many House Democrats, who have taken to accusing McConnell of turning the upper chamber into a “legislative graveyard.”
Schumer, meanwhile, has repeatedly called on the GOP leader to bring to the floor legislation that would beef up election security following special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. But on that matter, too, McConnell has refused to comply, calling such bills duplicative and unnecessary.
Schumer told reporters Tuesday that Democrats will go to the floor to try to bring up election security bills by unanimous consent, requiring GOP senators to block them. He also said Democrats would push for additional election security funding in the upcoming budget and appropriations negotiations. But there’s little Democrats can actually do to force McConnell to allow a vote.
Attempts to shame McConnell into action haven’t worked well for Democrats in the past. He refused to grant Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, a confirmation hearing. He also successfully blocked several of Obama’s proposed initiatives during his second term. What has moved McConnell, however, has been substantial pressure from other GOP senators.
The debate over how to advance Democratic priorities if McConnell retains a majority in the Senate in 2020 has become an issue on the campaign trail. Former Vice President Joe Biden this week reiterated his belief in bipartisan cooperation but also said compromise is not always possible.
“You have to go out and beat these folks if they don’t agree with you by making your case, and that’s what presidents are supposed to do, to persuade the public,” Biden said Monday at an event in D.C., adding that “you can shame people to do things the right way.”
But one former Obama administration official disagreed.
“Maybe you can shame people,” tweeted Alyssa Mastromonaco, who worked as White House deputy chief of staff. “You can’t shame McConnell. It would be dope to find a path to greater bipartisanship but this isn’t that path.”