Bill Straub: As Americans lose faith in government, Mitch McConnell uses his ‘genius’ to fuel the flame

Ah, the workings of the mind of a genius. Who among us can understand how the brains of luminaries such as Einstein, Newton and Buck Showalter work, leaving us poor confused people to simply gaze in wonder at their obvious superhuman qualities?

Kentucky is indeed blessed with its own impressive mental giant to enjoy and observe. Ask anyone in the DC knowledgeable and they’ll immediately tell you that Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Louisville is an incomparable legislative master, anyone who challenges his
the noted shine is doomed to despair.

McConnell is a “masterful tactician with an in-depth knowledge of legislative procedures,” according to the Citizen Truth website, echoing what has been said about Addison Mitchell McConnell endlessly over the decades. For the Washington Post, he is “insanely brilliant”. And, of course, the word genius is used so often that it is too often cited.

We are not worthy.

NKyTribune Washington columnist Bill Straub was the Frankfort bureau chief for the Kentucky Post for 11 years. He is also the former White House Political Correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently on federal government and politics. Email him at [email protected]

These unparalleled mental qualities, and don’t think for a moment that Mitch disputes their existence, are on full display these days regarding two key bills currently before the Senate.

McConnell is about to hit the deep six.

The first measure to consider, the US Competition and Innovation Act (USICA), aims to address the global shortage of semiconductor chips, which is wreaking havoc on the economy while disrupting the supply chain. of the country, leading to shortages of certain goods, particularly automobiles. , thereby driving up prices.

“It wasn’t that long ago that America led the world in manufacturing advanced semiconductor chips,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told a congressional committee earlier this year. “Today we produce zero percent of these chips in America – zero percent. It’s a national security risk and an economic security risk.

The United States Conference of Mayors, urging swift action, wrote to legislative leaders: “Semiconductors play a unique role in our economic and national security, enabling advances in medical devices and healthcare, communications, computing, defence, transport, clean energy and technologies. of the future such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and advanced wireless networks.

The strengthening of the American position is also seen as an opportunity to get ahead of China on the international stage. But any action is likely to be costly. Building a new semiconductor fab would likely cost around $10 billion, according to The Hill, which noted, “The capital investment is, quite simply, enormous.”

Ultimately, the United States is losing ground in the development of new technologies because semiconductor chips are so vital to many new products. The House and Senate have been back and forth over how best to solve the problem, proposing competing legislation. The upper house is considering a scaled-down proposal from the House version that would invest $52 billion in incentives for semiconductor production as well as an investment tax credit for semiconductor makers Americans.

Funding is desperately needed. Intel announced plans in January to build a $20 billion chip manufacturing plant in Ohio, but said it would only go ahead if the federal government provided the money. According to The Hill, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger “has warned that if Congress doesn’t pass the bill, the company could instead expand its facilities in Europe, where lawmakers have authorized $46 billion to boost the production of semiconductors.

This is the first step – keep it in mind for a moment. The second proposal, completely independent, aims to reduce the prices of prescription drugs under the Medicare program. Democrats, who hold the smallest conceivable majority in the Senate, are working on a plan that would allow Medicare, the national health insurance plan for those over 65, to negotiate the price of certain prescription drugs with the pharmaceutical industry. . It would also cap out-of-pocket expenses for Part D prescription drug plan members at $2,000 a year and impose tax penalties on drugmakers who raise the prices of their products by more than the rate of inflation.

The Congressional Budget Office determined that such legislation would reduce the budget deficit for the 2022-2031 period by $249.2 billion while increasing revenue by $38.4 billion.

The cost of Medicare prescription drugs is a long-standing controversy. In a poll released a year ago, West Health and Gallup found that 77% of American adults believe the government should limit prescription drug price increases and 81% support that Medicare negotiates drug prices. More recently, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported in May that 83% of respondents think the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer of New York is reportedly close to reaching a deal with renegade lawmaker Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WVa, on acceptable Medicare language. If those talks succeed as expected, Schumer will likely include the agreed-upon provision in a reconciliation package along with a handful of other budget items, including perhaps a climate change provision and a tax hike on the wealthy.

Such a move would effectively thwart a potential Republican filibuster.

Now, to a mere mortal, it would seem that these two measures – boosting production of semiconductor chips and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices – have little in common and should go up or down on their own merits.

But genius Mitch sees an opportunity.

McConnel opposes the Medicare bill, preferring that the nation’s seniors continue to pay for their prescription drugs at all costs. He says it would impact the pharmaceutical research needed to bring vital new products to market, a questionable notion given the enormity of the industry’s profits.

What he fails to mention is campaign money flowing into Republican coffers due to the protection of an industry that has brought products like oxycontin to market. In order to put more dollars in the wallets of GOP candidates, Mitch is more than willing to snatch a few bills from the pockets of 80-year-old retirees.

What a genius!

Either way, McConnell reacted strongly last week, saying Republicans won’t help pass the semiconductor bill if Democrats pursue reconciliation on the package containing the Medicare provision.

“Let me be perfectly clear,” McConnell said in a tweet, harking back to the phraseology of that other great Republican, President Richard M. Nixon, with whom he shares several characteristics, “there will be no ‘USICA bipartisan as long as Democrats pursue a partisan reconciliation bill.

It should be noted that McConnell supported the semiconductor bill the first time it crossed the chamber. Now, it appears to be raising the specter of a filibuster if Democrats proceed as planned on a completely separate and unrelated bill.

“Senate Republicans are literally choosing to help China outplay the United States in order to protect Big Pharma,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

So, that’s how the brain of our genius works. In order to get what he wants, McConnell will oppose a manufacturing bill that will increase jobs, raise international status and sting China in the eye. He also wants to shred a bill that will save hundreds of billions of dollars in health insurance costs.

Both are extremely popular with the voting public. And you think the great genius doesn’t care about that kind of nonsense?

In the end, it all goes to show how much of a failure Mitch McConnell is, as a legislative leader and as a human being. Polls show that people are losing faith in the American system of government. Mitch McConnell systematically fuels this loss of confidence.

It also shows that the term genius has been profoundly and indelibly diminished.