News Release

Is Mitch McConnell President?


MAX MORAN,, @revolvingdoorDC
Moran is a research assistant at the Revolving Door Project and just wrote the piece “We Don’t Have to Live in Mitch McConnell’s World” for The American Prospect.

Moran writes: “Early reports indicate that Biden’s transition team is already readying its white flag of surrender due to opposition by one profoundly unpopular man — probable Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. …

“The transition team is leaking that they’re resigned to putting forward corporate lobbyists and bland centrists, in the desperate hope that this will appease McConnell into doing his damn job. This argument is also more than a little convenient for the corporate lobbyists and bland centrists desperate for some good reason why they should be considered for jobs. In fact, most of the names floated in Axios’s coverage of ‘fallback’ candidates were already seen as leading choices for various jobs: Lael Brainard at Treasury and Tony Blinken at State, for example. In this sense, the Biden team is claiming their hands are tied in service to putting forward the nominees they want anyway. …

“It’s important to recognize that the idea of hopelessness around a Biden Cabinet is nonsense. Biden has several tools available to him to circumvent McConnell’s Senate and still appoint the Cabinet secretaries he needs. And to have any hope of Democratic victory in 2022 and 2024, Biden must not only build a functional, Rooseveltian government, but he must take public credit for it — and publicly jeer those who would stand in his way.

“Biden has at least two paths to building a Cabinet without running through the Senate. First, he can aggressively use the Vacancies Act, which allows presidents to temporarily fill the leadership of an executive agency while waiting for a permanent nominee’s confirmation. Biden can either direct someone sitting in a different Senate-confirmed job to fill the duties of a Cabinet secretary, or pick a senior staffer at the agency and temporarily make them the boss.

“You know all of those Trump officials with the word ‘acting’ in their job titles? They got those acting jobs thanks to the Vacancies Act. In other words, Republicans have cheered aggressive use of this law for four years, even when they controlled the chamber needed for full confirmation of these appointees. They are in no position to complain about Biden using it, and when they inevitably complain anyway, they should immediately be discounted as the hypocrites they are. …

“Biden’s second option for circumventing McConnell is to make appointments in recess. Here, according to legal expert Sy Damle, Biden would need the Speaker of the House to set up a disagreement with McConnell over adjourning, which President Biden can then settle using the Presidential Adjournment Clause in the Constitution. While Congress stands in recess, the president can make temporary appointments which last until the end of the next congressional session.”

The Revolving Door Project is a project of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.