- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2017

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a grim view Friday of the chances of major entitlement reforms under a GOP-led Washington, saying he’s reluctant to tackle Social Security, Medicare and other big-spending programs without Democrats’ buy-in.

In a year-end press conference Mr. McConnell took aim at political nemesis and former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, mocking his “political genius” in costing the GOP the Alabama Senate seat.

And Mr. McConnell said the national Republican Party will take an active role in trying to recruit and push candidates who “can win in November,” taking a shot at the Bannon-led forces who are seeking far-right nominees to bolster the conservative movement.

Mr. McConnell also said that he’ll look to focus on bipartisan bills next year, listing changes to the 2010 Dodd-Frank bill, and a solution for illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” as areas where work could happen.

The Kentucky Republican said he’s agreed to devote floor time in January to a bill to grant legal status to Dreamers, and said he’s allowing a working group of Republicans and Democrats to debate the contours of that legislation.

“There is no emergency until March, and we’ll keep talking about it and hopefully get to an outcome,” he said.

On entitlements, Mr. McConnell said he, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and President Trump will sit down and plot out a 2018 agenda early in the new year, but he seemed less bullish than Mr. Ryan on the chances.

“I’ve been here awhile and the only time we’ve been able to do that has been on a bipartisan basis, and it was a long time ago. It was Ronald Reagan and [former Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill] raising the age of Social Security, and that was before I got here,” Mr. McConnell said.

“The sensitivity of entitlements is such that you almost have to have a bipartisan agreement to achieve the result,” the senator said.

Mr. Ryan last week had said he would look to use the 2019 budget process, which begins next year, to look at reforming the welfare and social safety net system to remove bad incentives and push people toward gainful work.

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