The day after Republicans won control of the Senate, President Barack Obama and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — who will become the top Senate leader — talked about cooperation even as they are heading toward a collision course over immigration.
Some Wednesday thoughts after voters repudiated Obama and Democrats as Republicans clinched Senate, House and governor races:
◆ “Well, look, there’s only one Democrat who counts, the president,” McConnell said during his press conference in Kentucky.
McConnell knows, though, he can’t cut out the Senate Democrats, because it takes 60 votes for most legislation to pass.
But it suggested that Obama needs to work up a stronger relationship with McConnell — with whom he never bothered to spend much one-on-one time in the six years that he has been president.
Obama went so far as to mock McConnell during the 2013 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, where he made a taunting joke.
“Some folks still don’t think I spend enough time with Congress. ‘Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?’ they ask,” Obama said. “Really? Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell? I’m sorry. I get frustrated sometimes.”
Obama, at his press conference at the White House, which followed McConnell’s, was asked about having that drink and now, confronted with the new reality — well, let’s start the debate between Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey or whatever the men want to pour.
“You know, actually, I would enjoy having some Kentucky bourbon with Mitch McConnell,” Obama said. “I don’t know what his preferred drink is, but … my interactions with Mitch McConnell, he has always been very straightforward with me. To his credit, he has never made a promise that he couldn’t deliver. And he knows the legislative process well. He obviously knows his caucus well. He has always given me, I think, realistic assessments of what he can get through his caucus and what he can’t. And so I think we can have a productive relationship.”
◆ And speaking of productive, McConnell took off the table — either in a goodwill gesture or to rebuke the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led the faction who led Republicans to the federal government shutdown last year — two bargaining chips GOP lawmakers had been wielding. “Let me make it clear, there will be no government shutdowns and no default on the national debt,” McConnell said.
◆ Obama, we all know, has drawn the ire of immigration activists — mostly Democrats — by delaying the executive action he promised to curb deportations. Obama put off signing an order until after the mid-term in order to not give Republicans an issue.
The GOP had plenty of stuff to beat Democrats anyway.
McConnell bluntly told Obama don’t do it.
“I think the president choosing to do a lot of things unilaterally on immigration would be a big mistake. It’s an issue that most of my members want to address legislatively. And it’s 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. And the president’s done that on Obamacare. He’s done it on immigration and threatened to do it again. 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,” McConnell said.
Obama at his presser promised to issue an immigration order “before the end of the year,” inviting McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to send him a bill to “supplant” his action.
That is waving a red flag in front of the newly empowered bull.