Mitch McConnell, Master of Catch-22

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

The GOP has long mastered the art of Catch-22 but it may just have surpassed itself. Before I turn to the incident I have in mind, Heller’s definition is in order:

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

I have written about how, following the Las Vegas mass killing, the GOP said that a regulatory fix rather than legislation was needed to control bump fire stocks used by mass killers. The problem: they wouldn’t grant the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) the authority to regulate bump stocks. Nevertheless, House Speaker Paul Ryan sounded oh-so-reasonable about it.

And then there are the anti-abortion TRAP laws. In some states, abortion doctors are forced to have medically unnecessary admitting privileges at local hospitals which then–perhaps because of religious affiliation or political pressure–don’t grant them admitting privileges.

Mitch McConnell’s latest is a doozie. He doesn’t want to be seen as letting Donald Trump off the hook for inciting open sedition but he also doesn’t want to alienate Trump supporters. What does he do? First, as Senate Majority Leader, he refused to reconvene the Senate before January 19 to conduct Trump’s trial. Then, turning the Constitution into a Catch-22 document, he voted for a GOP motion contending Trump’s trial is unconstitutional because he’s no longer in office.

As New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait sarcastically sums up the effect of McConnell’s maneuver,

Nobody is defending the insurrection. It merely happens to have taken place during a wormhole in the calendar in which a president can violate the law with complete impunity. They would like very much to hold Trump accountable, but the founders designed the Presidential Crime Wormhole, and we must respect their wisdom.

Wormhole or Catch-22, it all comes down to one thing: those who have the power can make rules which, while they give off the aura of being even-handed, are in reality just designed to screw the rest of us.

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