The Senate Republican leader said Thursday his party can’t “reverse the damage Democrats have done” as long as President Obama still holds the veto, but said if the president wants to get anything done over the next two years he will have “to move in our direction.”
“The White House has a choice: They can change course, or they can double down on a vision of government that the American people have roundly rejected,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said. “If they choose the former, they’ll find a partner in Republicans. If they don’t, we will have more disagreements ahead.”
In a speech to the Heritage Foundation, Mr. McConnell, who has led his party through the downs of 2008 and the ups of 2010, said that means “repeatedly” trying — but expecting to fail — to repeal Mr. Obama’s signature health care law.
Even though Republicans control the House, the Senate’s rules requiring consensus ensure that the upper chamber will remain the key to any legislation that will pass. That means Mr. McConnell remains the key gatekeeper.
He said Mr. Obama must realize the election was “about you.”
In a press conference Wednesday, Mr. Obama seemed to accept that analysis. The president was introspective, and at times despondent, as he accepted blame for his party’s disastrous showing.
And Mr. Obama listed some areas where he said his agenda will already be circumscribed, such as his goal of passing a broad bill to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
While Mr. Obama was chastened post-election, Mr. McConnell stuck to the same tone he has taken for the last two years of steely, plain-spoken opposition.
After a questioner asked him why he didn’t also mention trying to repeal the financial regulation bill, Mr. McConnell said they would try that, too: “I’m sorry I left that out.”
“Health care was the worst piece of legislation passed in my time in the Senate. The financial services bill is somewhere up there close to that,” he said.
But Mr. McConnell also tried to manage expectations for Republicans, who won new votes in the Senate while decisively capturing control of the House. Despite the results, Republicans said still don’t run the government, Mr. McConnell said.
“By their own admission, leaders of the Republican Revolution of 1994 think their greatest mistake was overlooking the power of the veto. They gave the impression they were somehow in charge when they weren’t,” Mr. McConnell said. “After President Clinton vetoed their bills, making it impossible for them to accomplish all their goals, they ended up being viewed as failures, sellouts or both.”