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What Is McConnell Doing?

Before we leave the debt ceiling behind (for today), let us take a look at one more question that has some politics-watchers scratching their heads: Why is Mitch McConnell backing Kevin McCarthy's play here? You can point out that they are both Republicans, and indeed that is what we wrote yesterday. However, they often fail to see eye-to-eye, and McConnell is considerably less willing to drive the U.S. economy over a cliff than McCarthy and his Freedom Caucus overlords are.

Politico has an article on this, and the answer is... pretty much what you expect. McConnell is a chameleon, perhaps even more so that his colleague Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), albeit with much more sophistication and subtlety. And the Minority Leader has noticed that his Party has moved sharply rightward, and so too has the conference he leads (triggering, you will recall, a leadership challenge last year). McConnell also realizes that he's got to be able to work with McCarthy, and supporting the Speaker on a matter of such significance will win a lot of buddy-buddy capital for the Kentuckian.

That said, McConnell's support really amounts to not undercutting McCarthy, and that's about it. The Minority Leader is not taking much of a role in negotiations, leaving that the McCarthy and Biden. McConnell is also savvy enough to know that, whatever happens, there is absolutely no way that the President will allow the U.S. to default on its debts. So, the Turtle can make a show of supporting McCarthy and the far-right elements of the GOP without actually incurring much in the way of risk. Taking advantage of opportunities like this is how McConnell became the longest-serving leader of Senate Republicans in U.S. history. (Z)

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