Earlier this year, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was gung-ho behind an amendment intended to improve federal fiscal health.
The proposal -- a "Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action" -- was co-sponsored by the top Democrat and the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Judd Gregg, R-N.H. It would establish an 18-member bipartisan commission to study the current and future fiscal condition of the federal government and make recommendations about how revenues and expenses can be brought into line. Those recommendations would be fast-tracked to the House and Senate floors under a special procedure.
In a May 12, 2009, Senate floor session to discuss the Medicare Trustees' Report, McConnell said, "We must address the issue of entitlement spending now before it is too late. As I have said many times before, the best way to address the crisis is the Conrad-Gregg proposal, which would provide an expedited pathway for fixing these profound long-term challenges. This plan would force us to get debt and spending under control. It deserves support from both sides of the aisle. The administration has expressed a desire to take up entitlement reform, and given the debt that its budget would run up, the need for reform has never been greater. So I urge the administration, once again, to support the Conrad-Gregg proposal. This proposal is our best hope for addressing the out-of-control spending and debt levels that are threatening our nation’s fiscal future."
That's a pretty clear endorsement of a bill, even though McConnell was not a co-sponsor.
But then, on Jan. 26, 2010, when the Conrad-Gregg bill, originally introduced as S. 2853, came for a vote in the Senate, it fell seven votes shy of the Senate's 60-vote threshold for passage, garnering 53 yeas and 46 nays, with one senator not voting.
The measure would have passed with 60 votes if only seven additional Republicans who had co-sponsored S. 2853 had voted for it. Instead, those seven -- Robert Bennett of Utah, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, John Ensign of Nevada, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and John McCain of Arizona -- withdrew their co-sponsorship in the days before the vote and then voted against it on the floor.