Criticized by many conservative bloggers over the last two years as a weak sister for his failure to lead confrontationally, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, possibly emboldened by the addition of several new members to his caucus, is increasingly sounding the right notes.
On Wednesday he took to the Senate floor to deliver remarks concerning his expectations for the congressional lame duck session and the scheduled Nov. 30 meeting at the White House between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders.
Acknowledging that Republicans and Democrats in the Senate had already held many meetings to assess their priorities, McConnell offered up a list of what he believes Congress's priorities should be for the lame duck session:
- Preventing a massive tax increase on families and small businesses, and
- Stopping the Washington spending spree.
It's a pretty clear list, and one that runs headlong into what many believe the Democrats have planned for the next few weeks, this being their last chance to accomplish what they failed to do for the two whole years they controlled both chambers of Congress with huge majorities and, by rights, should have been able to pass anything they wanted along party lines.
But they didn't—and now they may be trying to sneak things like card check and a cap-and-trade energy tax in under the door at the last minute—or at least set things up so that the GOP won't be able to stop them in the House next year.
"It's critical," McConnell said, "that we send a message to job creators that Congress won't raise their taxes on January 1st."
"It is my hope that starting today," he added, "Democrats will turn to priorities that reflect the priorities of the American people. If they choose that route, I know Republicans will be happy to work together to get them done. If not, I'm confident Republicans will be eager to chart a different course on behalf of the American people." [See an Opinion slide show of the GOP's rising stars.]
Holding out the hand of friendship to the White House, McConnell concluded by saying he saw opportunities for the White House and Congress to work together to increase job opportunities at home, to increase trade opportunities abroad, and to increase U.S. exploration of clean coal technology and nuclear energy. But he said effort also needed to be expended on the "need to reduce spending and our national debt."
For a party as steeped in confrontation as the Democrats have been over the last two years, these kinds of olive branches represent the need for them to develop a new strategy. The Democrats, having been rejected at the polls especially by independents that were put off by the "We won—get over it" mentality they projected at every turn, the GOP is now in a position to win just by seeming nice. It's a short window but one that McConnell and Speaker-elect John Boehner show they are willing to use to their every advantage.
- See an Opinion slide show of the GOP's rising stars.
- Check out a roundup of political cartoons on Democrats and Republicans.
- Follow the money in Congress.