Mitch McConnell Says He Won’t Back Down From a Fight With Obama

The new Senate majority leader vowed Wednesday to get his chamber working more efficiently.

Caption:WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters following the weekly policy lunch of the Republican caucus November 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. McConnell spoke on continued problems with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act during his remarks.
National Journal
Lauren Fox
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Lauren Fox
Jan. 7, 2015, 5:41 a.m.

In his first of­fi­cial speech as Sen­ate ma­jor­ity lead­er, Mitch Mc­Con­nell fi­nally stepped in­to his role, laid out his vis­ion, and ad­dressed his up­com­ing battle against Pres­id­ent Obama head on.

“If Pres­id­ent Obama is in­ter­ested in a his­tor­ic achieve­ment of his own, this can be his time as well,” Mc­Con­nell said on the Sen­ate floor Wed­nes­day. “I ap­pre­ci­ate that bi­par­tis­an com­prom­ise may not come eas­ily for the pres­id­ent. The pres­id­ent’s sup­port­ers are press­ing for mil­it­ancy these days, not com­prom­ise. They’re de­mand­ing the com­forts of pur­ity over the du­ties of pro­gress.”

A day after Obama threatened to veto le­gis­la­tion for the con­struc­tion of the Key­stone pipeline—the Sen­ate’s first ef­fort of the new ses­sion—Mc­Con­nell made it clear that he was not back­ing down.

“Threat­en­ing to veto a jobs and in­fra­struc­ture bill with­in minutes of a new Con­gress tak­ing the oath of of­fice—a bill with strong bi­par­tis­an sup­port—is any­thing but pro­duct­ive,” said the Re­pub­lic­an from Ken­tucky.

While Mc­Con­nell ac­know­ledged that trade, in­fra­struc­ture, and tax re­form were areas he was will­ing to work with Obama on, he also made it clear that it was not his job to “pro­tect the pres­id­ent from good ideas.”

“A little cre­at­ive ten­sion between the ex­ec­ut­ive and the le­gis­lature can be healthy in a demo­cracy like ours,” Mc­Con­nell said.

Mc­Con­nell’s over­arch­ing mes­sage was simple, however: It’s time to make the Sen­ate work again.

A three-dec­ade vet­er­an of the body, Mc­Con­nell is fully aware that the Sen­ate can be slow, un­wieldy, and stub­born at times. But he made it clear that in his new role, he would try to re­store some of the fun­da­ment­al rules of the body.

“It’s time to change the busi­ness mod­el,” Mc­Con­nell said, a dig at the way the Sen­ate was run un­der former Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id. “We need to re­turn to reg­u­lar or­der. We need to get com­mit­tees work­ing again.”

Re­pub­lic­ans in the 113th Con­gress of­ten com­plained that there was not ample op­por­tun­ity to of­fer amend­ments on the floor. Mc­Con­nell said that would change.

“Some­times, it’s go­ing to mean work­ing more of­ten. Some­times, it’s go­ing to mean work­ing late,” Mc­Con­nell said. “But restor­ing the Sen­ate is the right thing to do.”

But Mc­Con­nell’s job, will be much more chal­len­ging than simply mov­ing fund­ing bills and in­fra­struc­ture le­gis­la­tion along in a reg­u­lar or­der. The Amer­ic­an people are dis­en­chanted with Con­gress. A CNN poll re­leased Tues­day showed that just 37 per­cent of voters be­lieved that a Re­pub­lic­an-con­trolled Con­gress would be able to ac­com­plish more than a Demo­crat­ic-con­trolled one did.

“The people we rep­res­ent have lost faith in their gov­ern­ment. They no longer trust Wash­ing­ton to do the right thing,” Mc­Con­nell said. “In an era of di­vided polit­ic­al con­trol, we’re go­ing to have to work hard to meet ex­pect­a­tions, and we’re go­ing to have to work to­geth­er.”

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