- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - Five things to know about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is set to become Senate majority leader when the new Congress meets in January:


As a 2-year-old in Alabama, McConnell was struck by polio, which weakened his left leg. With his father serving overseas during World War II, his mother drove him to nearby Warm Springs, Georgia, where another polio victim - President Franklin Roosevelt - frequently visited for treatment.

McConnell says his mother got advice there from polio experts and gave him physical therapy at least three times daily for two years. He credits her determination with letting him have a normal childhood. Today he has a moderate limp, most noticeable when he descends stairs.



McConnell’s first brush with Washington came as a summer intern for liberal Kentucky GOP Sen. John Sherman Cooper, and later as an aide to moderate Sen. Marlow Cook, R-Ky. As have many Republicans, McConnell, elected Tuesday to his sixth six-year Senate term, has moved to the right over the years.

One example: He spent years as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee showering Kentucky with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of earmarks, which is spending lawmakers win for their home states. After the tea party-fueled House GOP takeover of 2010, he backed that chamber’s ban on earmarks, saying he wouldn’t apologize for the good they’d done for Kentucky but acknowledging they’d become a symbol of government waste.



For years, McConnell was the leading GOP foe of bipartisan efforts to curb election spending. A version of that legislation eventually became law in 2001, and McConnell was involved in a lawsuit challenging its legality. Eventually, the Supreme Court issued its 2010 Citizens United decision that lifted campaign spending restrictions by corporations and unions as infringements on free speech.



McConnell has said he wants to use must-pass spending bills to force showdowns with President Barack Obama over his health care overhaul, environmental regulations and other issues. He has said there may be room for compromise with Obama over tax laws and a trade accord with Asian nations.

He has also said he wants to give senators a freer hand in legislating than they’ve had in recent years under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has kept tight controls over amendments as the two parties accused each other of political posturing.



McConnell ascends to the Senate’s top post two years before elections that could be difficult for his party.

Though the political climate of 2016 is unpredictable and no one knows which senators may retire or die by then, as of now Senate Republicans face daunting odds that year. They are set to defend 24 Senate seats that year compared with just 10 for Democrats. And seven of those GOP seats are in states Obama carried in 2012.

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