Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has never been a favorite of conservatives. Those who see him as a “squishy” compromiser more interested in placating President Barack Obama and K Street lobbyists than the Republican base had more fuel tossed on that fire when he blocked amendments to the Highway Bill Tea Party members wholeheartedly support.
One amendment would defund Planned Parenthood, the nationwide abortion provider which receives more than a half billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies annually. McConnell has previously said he supports defunding Planned Parenthood, which was recently the subject of undercover sting videos in which executives with the organization can be heard discussing the sale of organs from aborted babies. But the leader blocked an amendment to the Highway Bill that would have defunded the organization.
McConnell used a tactic called “filling the tree,” made popular by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid when he was majority leader to block Republicans from being able to offer amendments to Democratic bills. “Filling the Tree” is when the allotted time for amendments is loaded by the leader, generally with small, insignificant measures favored by the majority leader, who controls the process, crowding out everyone else.
“Filling the tree” was roundly decried by Republicans when Democrats controlled the Senate because it blocked their ability to offer any amendments, popular on a bipartisan basis or not, to any legislation the Senate was considering. McConnell ran and was reelected to his Senate seat on returning the Senate to “regular order” after years of tight control and power consolidation under the Democrats. Now he is using the same tactic against his own party.
On the floor of the Senate Friday, Texas Sen. and GOP candidate for president Ted Cruz blasted McConnell’s move. “There are a host of amendments that the American people are focused on, things like defunding Planned Parenthood after the gruesome video,” Cruz said. “The majority leader doesn’t want to vote on that. That’s actually something the American people are focused on.”