WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) cautioned today that it would be a “mistake” for the Republican majority to “misread your mandate” and “think it’s going to be forever.”
“Nothing is forever in this country. We have an election every two years right on schedule. We have had since 1788. And so I don’t think we should act as if we’re going to be in the majority forever,” McConnell told reporters in a news conference to discuss election results.
“We’ve been given a temporary lease on power, if you will. And I think we need to use it responsibly. I think what the American people are looking for is results. And to get results in the Senate, as all of you know, it requires some Democratic participation and cooperation.”
He cautioned that “overreaching after an election is, generally speaking, a mistake.”
McConnell said he spoke with both President Obama and Donald Trump today.
“In a day when people were voting for change, they didn’t decide they wanted to change the Republican Senate, which I am proud of. And of course, many of our members actually had bipartisan accomplishments to run on,” he said.
The majority leader also chatted today with the presumed upcoming Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). They did not discuss, he said, whether Democrats plan to block a Trump Supreme Court appointment like GOPs planned to do with a Hillary Clinton appointment. But McConnell predicted they’re “going to get along fine” as dueling leaders: “I respect him. I think he’s very smart. And I think we’ll be fine. We both have our roles to play.”
In June, McConnell slammed Trump for “a series of outrageous and unacceptable statements,” including about the judge of Mexican heritage in the Trump University fraud case.
McConnell said today he didn’t want to “go back and relitigate the events of the past.”
“We have a new president. I’d like for him to get off on a positive start. And I think we should look forward and not backward and kind of rehash and relitigate the various debates we had both internally and with the Democrats over the past year,” he said.
He didn’t commit to whether or not he supports Trump’s plan for a border wall, saying only, “I want to try to achieve border security in whatever way is the most effective.”
Trump is “really happy we still have a Republican majority,” McConnell noted, adding, “Where we have differences of opinion I expect to discuss them privately and not sort of hashing them out in public.”
McConnell said the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal will not come up in the lame-duck session, and added that fast-track trade promotion authority (TPA) signed in 2015 “is still in place.”
“If the next president wants to negotiate trade agreements, he has the opportunity to do that and to send it up,” he said.
Asked if he would support Trump’s desire to withdraw from NATO and draw closer to Russia, the majority leader stressed that “the NATO alliance is every bit as important today as it ever was.”
“I think Article 5 means something. You attack any member of NATO you have us to deal with. I want the Russians to understand that fully.”
On Trump’s vow to “drain the swamp” through term limits, which would require a constitutional amendment, McConnell commented: “I would say we have term limits now. They’re called elections. And it will not be on the agenda in the Senate.”