Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell took a stab at reaching across the aisle this morning, saying he’d like to work with President Obama on what he called “the really serious, seemingly intractable problems” in the country today. His advice to a president who’s signaled he’s willing to come to the center and make deals with the new Republican-heavy Congress? Become one of us, and bipartisanship should be no problem.
“If the president is willing to do what I and my members would do anyway, we’re not going to say no,” McConnell told an audience of journalists and political insiders at a breakfast meeting hosted by Politico in Washington today.
Moderator Mike Allen asked McConnell if there are any concessions he’d be willing to grant the White House in the course of negotiating solutions to Social Security and other large-scale topics dividing Washington these days.
“It depends on the issue,” McConnell said. “We can’t negotiate sitting here this morning.”McConnell pointed to reports that Obama won’t tackle Social Security in his State Of The Union address, suggesting that the president could be willing to talk about the issue behind the scenes.
“I’m not surprised he won’t say what he’ll do on entitlements [in the speech],” McConnell said. “I wouldn’t either. So it’s not so much what he says tonight but what he’s willing to do.”
At other points in the session, McConnell said he felt the White House was quickly moving right, opening up at least the potential for dealmaking. Pointing to Obama’s new chief of staff, the committed moderate Bill Daley, McConnell said it was clear Obama got the message of the November elections, which expanded McConnell’s Republican numbers in the Senate and flipped the House to solid GOP control.
“[Obama] seems to me to be pivoting, on a whole variety of things, to be coming in our direction,” McConnell said. “To the extent that he really wants to do that, not just rhetorically but in reality, we’ll be glad to help.”
Before the election, McConnell said, Obama “didn’t need” Republicans, thanks to the sizable Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. That sent the country in a very clear direction, one McConnell said pushed the voters to put a “restraining order” on Obama and his policy agenda.
“He had mentioned things like nuclear power, clean coal technology, trade agreements — those are the kinds of things that I and my members are for,” McConnell said, referring to the days before Nov. 3, 2010. “Nothing ever happened in the last Congress…he was too busy trying to turn America into a Western European country as rapidly as possible.”
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