Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Thursday that he hopes that President Obama becomes a born-again moderate after the midterm elections and that a new, more balanced Congress brings with it some bipartisan comity.
But the Kentucky Republican made it very clear that any future bipartisanship needs to be defined by his ideological terms.
"What I hope we are going to have after November is more balance, more balance, which would give us the opportunity to do things together that simply were missing when you have this kind of disparity," McConnell said. "But, I'm not going to be very interested in doing things left of center. It is going to have to be center right. I think the president is a flexible man. I'm hoping he will become a born-again moderate."
Speaking before a group of reporters at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast, the Kentucky Republican offered little to no indication that the GOP is ready to cede any political turf to the White House on the major issues of the day. If anything, he made clear, it is the president who needs to leave his liberal perch and find common ground with conservatives. The only legislative items on which McConnell suggested there is room for bipartisan progress are nuclear power, electrification of cars and trucks and outstanding trade agreements.
And yet, the senator insisted that for all the legislative lethargy and political headbutting that has marked this Congress, there is nothing inherently wrong with the way that the Senate currently functions. Addressing the historic number of filibusters that he has launched during the past year and a half, McConnell insisted that it was a fair and natural response to Democratic leadership preventing Republicans from offering amendments to legislation.
"I don't think any of that is a threat to the nation," he said. "We are not dictators. We have to respond to our members and so that is why things tend to move [as] they do."
Protecting the Senate perogative was, it appeared, the chief purpose of McConnell's visit to the breakfast. The minority leader used his opening statement to address, in part, a recent article in the New Yorker that framed the Senate as an inherently broken institution.
"Invariably the majority is complaining about process and the minority typically feels strongly about it," he said. "I've seen that sentiment expressed on both sides on various points depending on what the number is in the Senate. I don't see the same Senate that this New Yorker author sees... I don't think we have a collegiality problem. What we are in the middle of is a great debate about the future of the country."
McConnell urged the younger members of the GOP and the Democratic Party to be patient with the Senate process and understand that the rules of the institution are structured with political purposes. Asked specifically about the efforts of freshmen Democrats to introduce rule changes at the beginning of the next Congress, McConnell refused to detail whether he has any parliamentary tricks up his sleeve to stop them (a rule change would take only 51 votes). "If I did, I sure wouldn't tell you," he responded.
But the senator did offer a prediction about the fate of filibuster reform.
"I don't believe that that will happen," he said. "I don't believe it should happen."
"My advice to the junior Democratic members," he added, "is take a longer view of the Senate as an institution and all the things it has done over 200 years to save America from excesses. And remember what it was designed to do."
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