Fresh off a stunning victory for him personally and for his party in the Senate, presumptive Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed there will be “no government shutdowns and no default on the national debt” on his watch, but spent as much time focusing Wednesday on fixing what he called a broken process as he did on issues.
Vowing to keep senators in town longer each day and each week, Mr. McConnell said he’ll give both Republicans and Democrats a chance to have their voices heard and return to some of the free-wheeling days when senators were entitled to ask for votes on their proposals no matter whether they were in the majority or minority.
“The first thing I need to do is get the Senate back to normal,” the Kentucky Republican said at a press conference he held in Louisville. “That means working more. I don’t think we’ve had any votes on Friday in anybody’s memory. It means opening the Senate up so that amendments are permitted on both sides.”
On specific issues he said he sees chances for cooperation with House Republicans and President Obama on free trade agreements and tax reform — an issue that all sides had predicted could earn cooperation this Congress, but which fell to the sidelines as both the GOP and Democrats eyed shaky federal finances and dangers of the congressional elections.
He also laid out some limitations on what Republicans can do, including repealing Obamacare. While GOP senators will talk about a strategy, Mr. McConnell said there are some pieces of the Affordable Care Act, such as the individual mandate and repealing a tax on medical devices, that should be the battleground.
And Mr. McConnell, who easily won re-election to his Senate seat Tuesday night, warned Mr. Obama against continuing to claim executive powers, particularly on immigration. The president has vowed to offer tentative legal status and work permits to what could be millions of illegal immigrants, in a move that many Republicans say would be an illegal overreach of his powers.
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“It’s like waving a red flag in front of a bull to say if you guys don’t do what I want, I’m going to do it on my own,” Mr. McConnell said.