Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has accomplished more in six months than Democrats managed in years controlling the often-unruly upper chamber, Republican veteran senators and former majority leaders Bob Dole and Trent Lott declare.
In a A-plus report card on McConnell's tenure, the party elders write in the Wall Street Journal
Tuesday night, "we well know the frustrations of trying to unite a conference of willful and independent operators, all of whom feel the constant tug of their home-state interests and their own ambitions."
"All of which is why we have both been impressed with Sen. McConnell’s leadership in these first months of the 114th Congress," they write, pointing to McConnell's expert handling of a bipartisan effort to give the president trade-promotion authority, also known as fast-track.
Tuesday’s 60-37 vote
to break a filibuster clears the way for TPA to be signed by President Barack Obama after a final Senate vote.
"McConnell has been wise to identify the handful of matters where agreement is possible, and he has been tenacious in ensuring that the legislation earned bipartisan support," the former senators write. "He said his Senate would focus on results, and it has. That’s a sign of real progress—not only for the public but for our politics as well."
The pair testify the success in getting the Senate "working again" is a "relief."
"And it is an encouraging development for the country to see the Senate addressing big problems after years of inaction when it was controlled by Democrats," they add.
Ticking off the "dramatic" progress made in the past six months, Dole, who served as a U.S. senator from Kansas from 1969 to 1996, and Lott, the senator from Mississippi from 1989 to 2007, note, "Since January, the Senate has passed 30 bipartisan bills, a feat that required skillful leadership and real consensus-building."
"Not only is legislation now passing, bills are actually making their way to the president’s desk," they marvel.
The pair congratulate McConnell's work on the "the very first bill of the new Congress" – a bipartisan proposal to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, though it was ultimately vetoed by President Barack Obama.
"Even an unsuccessful attempt to override the veto was bipartisan, with eight Democrats joining in," they write.
They also hail McConnell help in getting through the Senate's "first budget in years."
"Already, the Senate has resolved a thorny Medicare reimbursement issue that bedeviled both parties for years," they add. "The Senate also passed the Iran Nuclear Review Act, allowing crucial congressional oversight of any nuclear deal the administration strikes with Iran."
They also cite the work on the appropriations bills "six months earlier than in recent congresses," and a spirited floor debate on the National Defense Authorization Act.
"Indeed, the Senate considered more amendments on this year’s NDAA, passed with a significant bipartisan vote last week, than it had during debates over the same bill in the past two years," they write.
The pair also cite McConnell's part in urging action on a cyber-security bill, and a planned major rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act.
"There have been hiccups along the way," they write. "That’s the nature of a 100-member deliberative body, where 60 votes (Republicans control only 54 seats) are needed to achieve almost anything."
"But when this Senate has bogged down, it has usually been due to sincere policy disagreements—great debates over the proper balance between privacy and security or executive authority," they declare.
And the accomplishments come at a time when "there was never a lot that a Republican-led Senate would be able to agree on with President Obama," the pair write.
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