Despite spending the past two years reflexively obstructing President Obama’s agenda, in the wake last November’s elections, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he wants to look for common ground and “areas of potential cooperation” with the president and Senate Democrats. During the previous Congress, McConnell expressed little interest in cooperating with the White House, so Democrats cautiously welcomed McConnell’s newfound willingness to compromise.
But at a breakfast event hosted by Politico’s Mike Allen this morning in D.C., which ThinkProgress attended, McConnell expressed a vision of cooperation that looks more like capitulation. McConnell said he is willing to work with Obama, as long as the president “is willing to do what I and my members would do anyway”:
MCCONNELL: If the president is willing to do what I and my members would do anyway, we’re not going to say no and –
ALLEN: But that’s not much of a concession. That’s not bargaining, to just give you what you want.
MCCONNELL: Um, I like to think I’m a pretty good negotiator.
McConnell’s comments seem to confirm what many have suspected; that the GOP leader — who recently said that the “single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president” — isn’t actually that interested in cooperation or governance.
But while McConnell wants Obama to cave to his agenda, he’s hesitant to even reveal what that agenda is, particularly on entitlement reform. Because Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to making major cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare to trim the deficit — something many Republicans support — McConnell is insisting that negotiations on this key policy issue be kept behind closed doors:
MCCONNELL: Well look, if we’re going to do anything serious about entitlements, we’re not going to negotiate it in public.
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Asked what his party could do to avoid the pitfalls that befell former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich after he lead the GOP to major victories in the 1994, only to resign in disgrace a few years later, McConnell said his part must avoid “acting like they [are] in charge of the government when they’re not.” Indeed.