Why Shouldn’t McConnell Push for Centrist Cabinet Nominees?

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to the media after the Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., September 22, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

I’m hearing from a few Republicans who are wondering why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would effectively do a potential President Biden a favor, by discouraging hard-left cabinet nominees and signaling that only centrist options would have smooth confirmations. The argument is that a Biden cabinet with Elizabeth Warren at Treasury, Bernie Sanders at Labor, Susan Rice at State and Stacey Abrams as attorney general would freak out America and lead to a quick backlash against the new administration.

First … how would the Republican grassroots feel if a GOP-controlled Senate confirmed Warren, Sanders, Rice, Abrams and the rest? (Put aside the face that GOP governors could replace Warren and Sanders with Republicans for a second.)

Warren, Sanders, or like-minded leftists at Treasury and other posts setting economic policy and regulations could louse up the ongoing recovery. And the country’s suffered enough. The chief advisor to Operation Warp Speed thinks we can get all Americans vaccinated by June. If we get everybody vaccinated, all the industries come back — restaurants, bars, airlines, tourism, hotels, theme parks, movie theaters.

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After the annus horribilis the U.S. has endured, it’s entitled to some economic good times, even if that means a Biden administration gets some unwarranted credit. Biden’s probably not running for reelection anyway. We’ve endured plagues, wars, terrorism, the Great Recession, Obamacare screwing up healthcare, riots … let’s just get some peace and prosperity cooking. If McConnell thinks that the country is better off with Lael Brainard for Treasury and Tony Blinken or Chris Coons for State and Doug Jones as attorney general, he should signal that to the Biden administration, and see what Biden decides.

Republicans don’t need to look at every decision at this moment for how it’s going to play in an election two to four years from now. They’re in strong shape with state legislatures for redistricting. Republicans are going to be pretty close in the House when all is done this year. The 2022 Senate map has almost no low-hanging fruit for the GOP (maybe Colorado? Nevada? New Hampshire?), and a handful of challenging seats to keep (North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin).

Plus, if Biden never nominates any progressives for cabinet posts, the progressives get mad at Biden — not at the Senate GOP for rejecting them.

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