The George Mitchell Precedent

by Ramesh Ponnuru

Jay Newton-Small writes for Time:

If Mitch McConnell becomes Senate Majority Leader next year, he says his leadership style will most resemble that of George Mitchell, the Maine Democrat who held the job from 1989 to 1995. McConnell is not attracted to Mitchell’s policies, but he likes the Democrat’s style.

“He treated everyone with respect,” McConnell tells TIME in an interview. “The Senate needs to run in a more collegial and open way than [under] the current majority leader, who has prevented members from both parties from offering amendments and basically done a lot of damage to the institution, in my opinion.”

I suspect that McConnell likes something about Mitchell other than collegiality. Mitchell was a highly effective Senate leader under a president of the opposite party. He kept sending George H. W. Bush popular liberal legislation that elicited vetoes that hurt the president and his party, teed up issues for the next presidential race, and formed much of his own party’s agenda for the next time it had the presidency. Some of those fights concerned the minimum wage, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and unemployment insurance. I suspect that’s part of what McConnell would want to do with a Republican majority. If so, it’s something for Republicans to keep in mind as they figure out how to campaign this year.

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