Presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) acknowledged the upper chamber has to deal with some “big egos” — which may include senators eyeing the White House.
But the senator who just won his sixth term, appearing completely at-ease, upbeat and confident, told reporters in Louisville today that “the first thing I need to do is to get the Senate back to normal.”
“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. And it means occasionally burning the midnight oil in order to reach a conclusion,” McConnell said.
“I can remember the way we used to get bills finished was for the majority leader to announce on Monday we were taking up a particular bill and we were going to finish it. Finish it Thursday night, Friday morning or Saturday, but you have to mean it. And it’s amazing what happened around midnight on Thursday. People who were very aggressive on Tuesday morning were awfully anxious to leave Friday morning and amendments would go away and bills would pass.”
McConnell added “the committees need to be relevant again,” with bills passed at that level with bipartisan support seeing the light of day on the Senate floor.
“We will certainly be voting on things as well that we think the administration is not fond of,” he said, citing energy bills and Keystone XL.
He acknowledged that President Obama will be whipping out the veto pen. “I think he’s vetoed two little bills in six years. The first two years he loved everything he got and the last four years the current majority made sure he never got anything he didn’t like.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has vowed to send Obamacare repeal after Obamacare repeal to Obama’s desk until he “wearies of it.” Obama told reporters today that he will not approve any bill scrapping the individual mandate.
“It’s no secret that every one of my members thinks that Obamacare was a huge legislative mistake. It’s fouled up the health insurance market,” McConnell said, adding the GOP will “be addressing that issue in a variety of different ways.”
He said Obama taking unilateral action on immigration reform would be “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.”
“I hope he won’t do that because I do think it poisons the well for the opportunity to address a very important domestic issue,” he said.
McConnell will be sitting down with Obama for lunch on Friday. Obama remarked today that he’d have a glass of bourbon with the Kentuckian if he likes it (he does).
The Senate GOP leader was asked about members of the conference who “might want to run for president” and therefore are looking to make grandstanding moves against leadership.
Senators known to be interested in a shot at the Oval Office include Paul, Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
“Look, I know a lot of people who want to run for president. What I tell them all is, the best day you’ll have will be the day before you announce. It is short of being in combat and being shot at with real bullets. There isn’t anything harder than running for president. Unless it’s running for re-election if you’re a leader of one of the parties in the Senate,” McConnell quipped.
“Look, I have no problem with people’s ambitions. I serve in a body with a bunch of class presidents. They’re all ambitious or they wouldn’t be where they are. A lot of folks with sharp elbows and big egos and, look, I’m – am not troubled by ambition and I think we can accommodate that and still make progress for the country.”
Cruz, who has not pledged his support for McConnell as majority leader, called the Kentucky senator. “He just called to congratulate me on my election and was impressed with the margin. And I was pretty happy about it myself,” McConnell said. “We had a good, friendly conversation.”
When pressed on whether Cruz is expected to be one of the presidential hopefuls who could “make it more difficult” for the caucus and leadership, McConnell responded, “We’ve got all kinds of people in a — I hope — 54-member Senate. We’ll see where we are at the end of the voting.”
Cruz told CNN on Tuesday evening that McConnell’s leadership role “will be a decision for the conference to make next week.”
“Let me make a prediction for you,” McConnell said today. “A week from tomorrow, I’ll be elected majority leader of the Senate.”