On Wednesday, her last day as minority leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) commented on her meeting with the president and the game plan for Thursday, the first day of the new Congress. “We will bring to the floor legislation which will open up government. It will be based on actions taken by the Republican Senate,” Pelosi, the incoming House speaker, said. “Bills that have passed on the floor of the Senate by over 90 votes and, or, in committee unanimously, led by Senator Mitch McConnell.” She added, “It will also present, in a separate bill, the bill that Mr. McConnell did for the Continuing Resolution for the Homeland Security bill until February 8, using his exact date. We have given the Republicans a chance to take ‘yes’ for an answer.” She reiterated, “We have taken their proposals unamended by any House bipartisan amendments, but just staying true to what the Senate has already done.”
For McConnell and Senate Republicans, the problem could not be more plain. What is their rationale for refusing to pass the House version of the Senate’s own bill and, instead, perpetuate an unpopular shutdown drummed up to get an unpopular wall? McConnell will once more, in all probability, reiterate the lowly status to which the Senate has sunk under his leadership. If President Trump won’t sign it — or says he won’t — the Senate, apparently now a subcommittee of the White House, won’t even put it to a vote. There could hardly be a more emphatic statement of the Senate’s irrelevance and irresponsibility.
If he doesn’t pass his own bill batted back into his court by Pelosi, McConnell will be in quite a pickle. (“We have given the Republicans a chance to take ‘yes’ for an answer,” she pointed out after Democratic leaders met with the president.) McConnell’s members will get antsy, yet he cannot very well make a counteroffer for fear that Trump will undercut him (as the president did with the original continuing resolution). McConnell really is at the beck and call of Trump, who doesn’t seem to know what he wants or how to get it.
A cagier Senate leader would pass Pelosi’s bill, send it to the president for a likely veto and see whether his members override the veto. If they do, Trump and McConnell can blame squishy Republicans and the Democrats. Unfortunately, McConnell isn’t likely to put Trump or his own members on the spot.