February 23, 2020

Majority Leader McCain?

          WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Founded by Drew Pearson 1932

Majority Leader McCain?

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – One thing that’s been consistent over Sen. John McCain’s, R-Ariz., long political career, he likes to be where the action is. Whether it’s campaign finance reform, an early cause of his, or more recently, championing background checks on guns, McCain is not afraid of controversy. His foray this week into the Senate standoff over filibuster rules also shows a new willingness to step up to some of the leadership challenges his party faces. He is beginning to act like his old “maverick” self.

The relationship between Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has become so poisoned by partisan politics that there is an opening for McCain to step in and maybe even replace McConnell as leader. It may seem preposterous at first because McCain is such an independent voice, that it’s hard to imagine him wanting to spend his days herding cats, which is what the leader’s job mostly is.

But the Republicans badly need a grownup in charge on the Hill, and McCain has demonstrated his ability to rise above petty party concerns when the issue demands. He has been working closely with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on immigration reform, and the duo met with President Obama last week to hash out possible strategies for putting pressure on the House to move forward with a bill.

McCain would of course have to win election among his colleagues, and that’s by no means easy. He has a tempestuous relationship with many of them, and even those who love and admire the Arizona senator have difficulty seeing him in that particular leadership role. Also, there’s no indication that McConnell is going anywhere, at least not soon. The GOP caucus will not be in the market for a new leader until after the November 2014 elections.

McConnell has managed so far to ward off a Tea Party primary challenger, but he faces a potentially formidable Democratic opponent in Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell has to mind his right flank and can’t look like he’s cozying up to Democrats to make deals. He’ll be focusing on Kentucky and downplaying his role in Washington as power broker until he gets through the election.

It will be a long 16 months unless McConnell shocks everyone and steps down from his leadership post to concentrate on winning a fifth term. In the unlikely event of that happening between now and November a year from now, McCain would fill an obvious need and be an obvious choice. Even if McConnell wins reelection, and he is favored in the polls, the GOP might not want to re-up his leadership portfolio for another two years.

McCain would bring unrivaled stature to the job. He was the presidential nominee of his party in 2008, and he’s emerging as a dealmaker at a time when some of the saner heads on the Republican side of the aisle recognize that the voters have sent them to Washington to legislate, and not reflexively obstruct everything President Obama and the Democrats propose.

McCain’s actions in bringing the senators together and avoiding the so-called nuclear option to thwart filibusters reminds the voters that he is not just another politician, that he has more often than not risen to the occasion and acted like a statesman when the situation demands it.

Fortunately for the GOP, and for the country, the Tea Party doesn’t have the same power in the Senate that it has in the House where Speaker Boehner is reluctant to bring anything to a vote without having the support of the majority of the Republican caucus – the majority of the majority Hastert Rule. On the Senate side, legislation can pass, as it recently did on immigration reform with a minority of Republicans, 14, joining all 54 Democrats and Independents to support the bill. That’s just the kind of math that would make a maverick’s day.

© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

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