Wasserman Schultz Blames McConnell’s ‘Utter Lack Of Leadership’ In Shutdown

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Update: October 18, 2013, 5:50 PM

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell may have gotten some bipartisan praise for helping negotiate an end the government shutdown this week, but don’t expect to hear any from the chairwoman of the Democratic Party.

Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told TPM on Friday that she thinks McConnell showed an “utter lack of leadership” that contributed to the federal government partially shutting down for 16 days.

“Mitch McConnell deserves as much blame as anyone for the government shutdown. I mean his utter lack of leadership and his allowing his conference to be essentially taken over by Ted Cruz and the Tea Party because he’s petrified that he has a Tea Party primary himself shows where his priorities were,” Wasserman Schultz said. “His priorities were focused on his own power and not on making sure we did the right thing for the country even while trying to, at the end of all this, make it appear as thought this was a lesson he was trying to teach his new members.”

Wasserman Schultz released a new book Tuesday entitled “For The Next Generation,” in which she makes an impassioned case for progressive policies and blasts the current climate of “gridlock” on Captiol Hill. She said Friday the standoff that emerged over attempts to defund Obamacare was a perfect example of the problems she illustrates in her book.

“I couldn’t have planned it better,” she quipped.

Both in her book and in her discussion with TPM, Wasserman Schultz blasted the Tea Party and argued Democrats in Washington need to focus on working with “reasonable, moderate Republicans.” Wasserman Schultz said the fact Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz walked away from the shutdown standoff declaring victory showed why Democrats need to “isolate” Cruz and his allies.

“We absolutely have to isolate and try to work past Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee, and the Tea Party extremists. I hope some Republican colleagues have learned their lesson from this and that we’re going to be able to work through this process that we established to go through the budget conference and put a long term continuing spending resolution on the floor and really start to try to solve our longer term problems,” said Wasserman Schultz.

In an interview on C-SPAN Friday, one influential Tea Party leader, FreedomWorks chief Matt Kibbe, suggested it’s a “real possibility” that more conservative elements of the GOP could soon split from the party’s more moderate members and form their own party. Asked about this, Wasserman Schultz predicted Tea Partiers will fail if they attempt to strike out on their own.

“I don’t think its a realistic possibility in terms of it being a successful venture if it happens. I certainly could see, because the Tea Party adherence to the Tea Party extremism and dogma is, you know, is so dug in that some of them might want to split off,” she said. “But, you know, from a practical standpoint if they did that they’d probably wither on the vine pretty quickly. … I think what will happen is they will continue to strangle the Republican Party and hold the nation hostage, but also … that the civil war in the Republican Party will continue for quite some time.”

Wasserman Schultz described the Tea Party as a “destructive force” that is “destroying the Republican Party.” Though she is on the other side of the aisle, Wasserman Schultz insisted she gets no pleasure from the GOP’s internal struggles because she prefers to have multiple vibrant parties in Washington.

“You would think as the chair of the DNC I would think that’s a good thing, but I don’t,” said Wasserman Schultz. “Having different perspectives inform our decision making, even the ones I don’t agree with, really ends up with a better and stronger result and I think it strengthens our nation.”

Correction: This post has been updated to show that McConnell is the Senate minority leader.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hunter Walker is a national affairs reporter for TPM. He came to the site in 2013 from the New York Observer. He has also written for New York Magazine, Gawker, the Village Voice, Forbes, The Daily, and Deadspin. He can be reached at hunter@talkingpointsmemo.com

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