By Alexander Bolton and Bob Cusack
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday said the Senate will be “much busier” in 2013 should the GOP take control of the upper chamber, criticizing what he said is the Democrats’ penchant for closing up shop at 6 p.m.
In an interview with The Hill, McConnell detailed how he would run the Senate, vowing to pass a budget, repeal “Obama-Care” and reform entitlement programs.
He thinks Senate lawmakers need to work harder, which means keeping longer hours and taking politically difficult votes. This might cause grumbling among his rank and file, but McConnell has warned them to buckle down for a heavy lift next year.
“What has done significant damage to the institution is not doing the things that we’re supposed to do — passing a budget, for example,” he said.
“You bring up a bill on Monday and say we’re going to finish it this week and mean it. Instead of everybody leaving the office at 6 p.m. and going home, you make the place work,” he said. “Yes, we would be busier.”
His “No. 1 obligation” is to repeal President Obama’s healthcare law, claiming it could be eradicated with only 51 votes through the budget reconciliation process.
McConnell also plans to pursue entitlement reform, calling the mounting deficit the biggest threat facing the nation.
Throughout the interview, McConnell expressed his willingness to strike bipartisan agreements. While McConnell is often criticized by Democrats as an obstructionist, his office features portraits of dealmakers: Henry Clay, former President Reagan and former President George H.W. Bush.
He speaks admirably of the negotiations in the 1980s between then-Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.) and Reagan.
McConnell plays his cards extremely close to the chest, and will use any piece of leverage to secure the best deal possible for his party. He has been known to employ tough rhetoric just hours before ironing out a final deal.
Of course, compromises always attract criticism, and that could spell trouble for senators, including McConnell, who are up for reelection in 2014.
The five-term senator has been spending years readying for that battle, amassing more than $6 million in his campaign war chest.
Striking a “grand bargain” on taxes and spending could trigger a challenge from the right, political analysts say. But McConnell clearly indicated he has no interest in kicking the can down the road again.
“It’s time to do it,” McConnell said, adding that his “conference is full of serious adults who want to get this country straightened out.”
McConnell is not one to offer bold predictions, saying the odds of the Senate and the White House flipping to the GOP are both about 50-50. He doesn’t, however, shy away from lambasting the president.
Communication this year between Obama and McConnell has been rare. Without changing his level, matter-of-fact tone, the Kentucky legislator says the president’s leadership has been “very poor” and rips him for going “AWOL.”