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The new Senate Minority Leader spent a little time between votes chatting with a few bloggers, including myself, this afternoon. I took my lunch on the conference call, which Senator McConnell's staff arranged to address questions and concerns about the change in leadership in the Senate as well as their strategy for the next session of Congress.
McConnell spoke mostly extemperaneously. He made a couple of points in a short statement at the beginning of the call, mostly reminding people of the challenges and benefits of being in the Senate minority. "49 is not irrelevant," he pointed out, noting that it only takes 41 to block undesirable legislation. As we have experienced in the majority, the filibuster threat allows the minority to have a lot of influence in shaping legislation. McConnell organized the last old-fashioned filibuster in 1994, "going to the mattresses" in an overnight session to block an egregious bill that would have made the government finance all political campains. This occurred six weeks before the 1994 elections that delivered Congress to the Republicans for the first time in 40 years, so McConnell made his point that obstructionism sometimes pays.
And it seems that McConnell is not going to shy away from obstructionism as a strategy and a tactic. He expressed hope that the Democrats would exercise bipartisanship and that Republicans could fix salvageable legislation. However, he seems ready and willing to use the slender difference between the two caucuses to grind the Senate to a crawl if it keeps Democrats from getting too far from the center.
Otherwise, McConnell remained somewhat vague about his plans for the next session. He said that he thought the extension of the tax cuts would be the most important domestic issue, but since they don't expire for another four years, it's unlikely to come up until after the presidential election. He's looking towards shaping the Republican platform for the post-Bush era, but it's far too early to discuss preliminary efforts to do so.
I asked McConnell about rebuilding trust with the reformers in the party. He said that he thought the leadership of the GOP caucuses in both chambers would work on spending reforms, but he seemed strangely passive about it. He wants to wait to see what the House produces before deciding how best to proceed. At that point, he apologized and left for a vote that had been called in the Senate, and we thanked him for his time.
McConnell strikes me as a man who has the experience at political infighting to remain tenacious for the Republican cause -- but gave us only a vague idea what that might be. He was adamant on the war that he would allow no defunding, and he could create a lot of legislative mischief if it came down to a trenchfight on that issue. He seemed eager to use the divided government to pressure for better fiscal discipline, but gave us few concrete points to consider. Once again, I'm reminded that the GOP really has not decided on who it is after the midterms, and while McConnell was a lock for Minority Leader (no one ran against him), it would have been far better for the Republicans to discover themselves before holding these leadership elections.
If the Republicans want to win back control of Congress, they will need some philosophical direction. I have some thoughts about how to accomplish that, and I hope to have more on that tomorrow.Sphere It View blog reactions
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A Chat With Mitch McConnellEd Morrissey The new Senate Minority Leader spent a little time between votes chatting with a few bloggers, including myself, this afternoon. I took my lunch on the conference call, which Senator McConnell's staff arranged to [Read More]
Tracked on November 16, 2006 9:49 PM
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