The most interesting question about the Alabama Senate race is why would the REPUBLICAN majority spend $30 million of precious money trying to defeat an established, conservative brand name politician in the state who is likely to mostly vote with the Republicans? After all, name recognition is half the battle, party affiliation the other half. In a state that voted 62.9% for Trump vs. 34.6% for Hillary, why not just accept a cake walk? It is a mystery…
What is the reason for this Gatling gun friendly fire? Would a nominal 52nd Republican senator really be so frightening? Say for a moment, as distasteful as it may be, that you are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and that in order to sabotage the repeal of Obamacare you have to find another no vote beyond McCain and the female Senator from Maine. It should be easy. The aptly named Senator Flake? The traitorous Corker who enabled Iran? Once you have sided with Iran, it should be pretty easy to be a no vote on complicated tax stuff, and pretend it is for the good of the party, and of course, the country.
No, the fear of having a larger majority alone, with fewer plausible explanations for defeats and failures to investigate the crimes of the last eight years, cannot explain the panic among the Republican Establishment that Judge Roy Moore might win. You see the problem with Roy Moore is not his lack of character, but rather, the presence of his character and his demonstrable willingness to do what is called for and what is right. He believes in God. He believes in America. Like Roe v. Wade, he thinks that killing viable seven-month-old fetuses is murder. He goes by the book, the Good Book. He takes his responsibilities personally, and seriously. And therein lies the problem.
Judge Roy Moore will do what is right for Alabama and for America. And when Majority Leader McConnell calls for a unanimous vote to declare the Senate to be in a Pro Forma Session, Senator Moore will not mislabel it. If Congress is in recess, and no serious business is being conducted, he will vote to call it a recess. You see, Congress has these “pro forma” sessions that pretend Congress is still in session so the President cannot make any recess appointments to any position. But I suspect the key to these votes is that they have been unanimous. Under Senate rules, if just one senator doesn’t play ball, a vote is required on the record. Senator Moore is likely to be that one senator. And the other senators don’t want to be on the record, sabotaging their President. And therein lies the $30 million problem….
Once upon a time, Presidents routinely made recess appointments. President Clinton made 139 recess appointments, and President George W. Bush made 171. But when he was majority leader, Senator Reid used the pro forma rules to stymie President Bush. Turnabout is fair play. Senator McConnell used the same technique to stymie President Obama appointees. Of course, President Obama, with no respect for tradition or rules, appointed people anyway, only to have his appointments struck down by the Supreme Court.
Now comes Senator McConnell, and in a scene out of Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards, is using the “pro forma” vote to sabotage his own party’s President, which happened in August of 2017 when Senator Murkowski set up a series of pro forma sessions to prevent President Trump from making any recess appointments. Meanwhile, according to CNN, by November 19 of the year following their election, President Bush had 455 confirmed appointees, and President Obama had 310 confirmed appointees, but President Trump only had 249 appointees confirmed. Altogether, President Trump is supposed to appoint 4,000 employees. At this pace, he will place less than 25% of the positions allotted to the Executive Branch. The Democrats and the Republicans are working together to stop Trump from getting his people into position.
If Judge Moore is elected, however, Trump will get some daylight to run the government instead of being tied up by the Lilliputians. In addition, perhaps the real threat is that the people currently serving under Trump will realize that they can be quickly replaced. The phrase “You’re fired!” comes to mind. The fear of that may get some of his appointees to do what Trump actually wants them to do.
Pro forma sessions rarely are initiated by the House of Representatives. There are just too many straight up guys like Louie Gohmert that come from an 80% majority district and can actually just vote what is good for the Republic. Senator Moore will likely do the same, and, to mix metaphors about a man who went to West Point and served as a Captain in Vietnam, the torpedoes be damned. And Alabama, which for years has been considered a backwater by our betters on the Coasts, will get to weigh in on what’s really important, and whether Alabama’s social culture is boorishly crude or actually superior to that, say, of Hollywood. To which I say, Thank God.
Elfego Baca is a pseudonym for a seasoned observer of American politics.