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Patriot Act Showdown Proves Mitch McConnell Has Lost Control of the Senate


Has Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lost control of the Senate? All signs point to yes.

This June 3 2014 file photo shows Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

A showdown in the U.S. Senate over the extension of the Patriot Act this week revealed divisions among the GOP on a core policy issue of national security - in particular, the collection and storage of bulk cellphone data.

It also revealed a troubling picture of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's leadership ... or lack thereof.

Sources on Capitol Hill, including lobbyists and top attorneys, have been saying for weeks that Sen. McConnell (R-Ky.) is a "timid" leader who is flailing in his new role.

This June 3 2014 file photo shows Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

This week's showdown within his own caucus underscores that point after an issue that could have been resolved with the simple adoption of a House bill, instead turned into a national media circus and sparked an embarrassing debate between GOP members on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

While the newly-named USA Freedom Act has now been passed and quickly signed into law by President Barack Obama, this week's free-for-all reveals serious concerns about McConnell's judgment.

First, the showdown illustrates that McConnell is woefully out of touch with his own party and his own country. Anyone who picks up a newspaper or logs onto the Internet knows that the American public is growing more Libertarian on the issues of personal liberty and government overreach. In fact, Americans hold the lowest level of trust for their government than at any other time in American history. A CNN poll shows that only 13 percent of Americans believe their government can be trusted.

It stands to reason.

[sharequote align="center"]Mitch McConnell is woefully out of touch with his own party and his own country.[/sharequote]

The IRS spent years harassing law-abiding Tea Party members; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked, "What difference... does it make?" after four U.S. personnel members died on her watch' and Obama's White House turned out to be the least transparent in American history despite pledging it would be the most.

Therefore, it is no wonder that Americans have heartburn over the 14-year-old Patriot Act that is now in the hands of a government that has perpetrated the above.

Second, as a fellow Kentuckian, McConnell has forged an interesting, strange-bedfellows, Bluegrass-State alliance with Rand Paul for president in 2016. Meaning, McConnell should have seen this coming.

A fierce Libertarian, Paul has made no secret of his disdain for the Patriot Act - even before Edward Snowden exposed the National Security Administration's program aimed at spying on Americans. The privacy issue is not new for Rand and quite frankly, the only surprise here is that it came as such a surprise to McConnell.

Third, McConnell does not yet appear to be owning his power. As leader, he had the prerogative and perhaps even the duty to hold the Senate into the Memorial Day weekend until the issue was resolved, but instead allowed members to head home where the sore spot over national security was allowed to fester in the media.

McConnell appears to be underestimating the younger members of his caucus such as Ted Cruz and Paul. These "youngsters" are more prone to filibuster, form their own special-interest caucuses, and unlike members of Congresses past aren't going to "sit down and shut up" just because their leader told them to -- most certainly not during a presidential election year where GOP candidates are faced with the largest presidential field in American history vying for content and yes, relevance in the media cycle.

Lastly, unfortunately for McConnell the Patriot Act showdown supports the suggestion from sources on Capitol Hill that Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) still, in effect, runs the day-to-day operations in the U.S. Senate. If true, this would explain the mechanics of last week's disastrous vote. If true, it would also be a crushing disappointment to the millions of Americans who voted for and rightfully expected fresh leadership in the upper chamber of Congress.

Whatever the reason for his miscalculation over the Patriot Act, McConnell would be wise to learn a thing or two from this week's lessons because new battles are already looming.

As America tries to figure out how to fight Islamic State overseas, as the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to potentially overturn portions of Obamacare (leaving millions without health care plans), and as the now-injured, perennially-milquetoast Secretary of State John Kerry attempts to negotiate a high-stakes nuclear deal with Iran, the American people both expect - and deserve - to have a U.S. Senate on top of its game.

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