WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he was talking to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last night and this morning about “ways we might be able to find a way forward.”
“We’re not unfamiliar with each other, and we’ll probably have a lot more dealing with each other in the future,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill today.
With four races still not declared, including the Mississippi contest headed to a runoff, Republicans will hold at least 51 seats in the upper chamber in the 116th Congress while Democrats and caucusing independents hold 45.
With 414 out of 435 House races declared, Democrats hold 220 seats to 194 for the GOP.
McConnell said his priority in the lame-duck session is to clear up outstanding items, including finishing the farm bill and finishing “funding the government.”
“The one issue that Leader Pelosi and I discussed this morning where there could be a possible bipartisan agreement would be something on infrastructure. But there’d be a lot of other things,” he said.
“I’m not putting you all down, but when we do things together it almost never makes any news. Even in this current situation, where we have Republicans in control of all three branches, I have a long list here of things we did on a bipartisan basis, from water infrastructure, the best appropriations process in 20 years, airport infrastructure, FDA authorization, on and on and on,” he continued.
“I mean, there are plenty of things that we work together on, and I always have to tell constituents who think we all hate each other that the Senate’s a pretty collegial place. And even though we had, obviously, big differences over things like taxes and judges, there were plenty of other things we did together. And there’s no reason that would stop simply because the House now becomes, you know, Democratic.”
Asked about President Trump’s outstanding request for border wall funding, McConnell said “that’ll, obviously, have to be done on some kind of bipartisan discussion.”
Asked about exit polls that showed healthcare was a top issue of voters, McConnell said Democrats “raised the phony issue of whether or not we were for or against pre-existing conditions, and I suspect it may have worked some places.”
“So the rhetoric doesn’t solve the problem,” he added. “And there are serious problems with Obamacare, and I think we’re going to have to, obviously, now try to address that on a bipartisan basis.”
“…I don’t think anybody’s satisfied with the status quo and the American people have given us divided government, which they’ve given us most of the time since World War II. They seem to like divided government. And I think the message is: Figure out what you can do together and do it. And I think healthcare is still a crisis and needs to be fixed.”
On presidential investigations, McConnell said Democrats in the House will “have to decide just how much presidential harassment they think is good strategy — I’m not so sure it will work for them.”
He did says that aggressive oversight of the White House by House Dems wouldn’t affect his working relationship with Pelosi.
Democrats added 23 women to the House in Tuesday’s races and one Democratic woman was subtracted from the Senate, while there will be 14 fewer GOP women in the House and no change in Senate representation. McConnell acknowledged the gender gap is a “frustration.”
“I think I’ve mentioned to you before that we’ve had plenty of women candidates. A lot of them don’t win,” he said. “Marsha Blackburn won. We’re hopeful that Martha McSally will win. We’ve been trying to convince one of our women, for example, to go on the Judiciary Committee, something I’ve tried and failed in the last couple of Congresses. Yeah, I mean, we need to do a better job of recruiting women candidates, and getting them elected. Hopefully, we’ll have two new women Republican senators here shortly.”
Asked if Trump would support McConnell’s re-election, the GOP leader replied, “I wouldn’t be surprised.”