GOP turns to McConnell for entitlement-reform fight

posted at 10:01 am on January 9, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The fiscal-cliff cycle of brinksmanship burnished the negotiating reputations of few people in Washington, but two figures did eventually gain credibility — Vice President Joe Biden, who elbowed Harry Reid out of the way, and Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who took up the reins when John Boehner’s Plan B strategy collapsed.  Look for that combination to take charge again in the entitlement-reform fight coming up next, reports The Hill’s Alexander Bolton, as both sides look for ways to reach some sort of common ground on spending and the debt ceiling:

Lawmakers see the passage of a bill to extend most of the Bush-era income tax rates and settle the question of estate, capital gains and dividend tax rates as a template for how to move the next installment of deficit reduction.

That would mean moving bipartisan legislation first in the Senate and put McConnell, the senior senator from Kentucky, in the driver’s seat.

“I think he’ll play a major role. I think he and Vice President Biden have a good working relationship,  and it appears to be one of the few good working relationships that the administration has with members of Congress on the Republican side of the aisle,” said former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who was one of McConnell’s most trusted advisers and is a columnist for The Hill.

This makes sense for Republicans, and even for Boehner, who found himself weakened in the Plan B flop and in the vote for Speaker.  Boehner had too much trouble getting his caucus to agree to a united front on strategy on taxes, and the same battle lines will probably appear when it comes time for a vote on the debt ceiling.  That makes Boehner an unreliable negotiating partner on any vote that requires a bloc vote from the GOP caucus to pass a deal.

As we saw in the tax deal, the Senate is really the true battlefield anyway.  Any deal that gets bipartisan support there will probably get enough Democrats and Republicans in combination in the House to approve it.  That puts the focus on McConnell, even if he’s “not looking to supplant” Boehner, as GOP staffers in the Senate tell Bolton.  Circumstances have probably done that already, and given his recent woes, Boehner may not mind all that much.

Of course, this makes another McConnell development rather awkward:

A conservative group has begun running online ads in Kentucky targeting Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who is up for re-election in 2014, because the “fiscal-cliff” deal he brokered.

Brent Bozell, the chairman of ForAmerica, which reports an online membership of 3 million, has launched one of the first ads of the 2014 cycle on conservative websites in Kentucky. The group says it is as a five-figure buy.

The ad, entitled “Whose Side Are You On,” asks conservatives to sign a petition letting Republican lawmakers know they will be held accountable if they vote for legislation to further increase taxes.

“As negotiations over the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ were intensifying, conservatives called on McConnell and congressional Republicans to hold the line on tax rates and demand cuts to spending, as they had promised,” the petition states. “But when the deadline was looming, McConnell called Vice President Joe Biden and signed off on a deal with the White House that included tax increases and virtually no spending cuts.”

I doubt McConnell will be too worried about his standing in Kentucky.  His next election is almost two years off, and he’s probably already raised millions for the effort.  He also has an opportunity to force spending cuts in Part II of the 2013 round of fiscal-cliff jumping, as well as some entitlement reforms, that will negate the main thrust of Bozell’s attack — if McConnell succeeds, of course.

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@Tim As I mentioned earlier, google it. And you continue to avoid ‘amn’t’, Tim. Dishonest of you.

tommy71 on January 9, 2013 at 2:01 PM

Sorry sparky…One cannot “weaken” that which has no strength to begin with.

But hey….thanks for playing.

Tim_CA on January 9, 2013 at 11:19 AM


The person elected by his peers to be second in line for the presidency, the most visible leader and spokesman for the opposition to Obama, the person chosen by Republicans to be their leader in the only part of government they control has no strength, has no strength? Just because something has been squandered doesn’t mean it wasn’t ever there.

alchemist19 on January 9, 2013 at 2:12 PM

@Tim As I mentioned earlier, google it. And you continue to avoid ‘amn’t’, Tim. Dishonest of you.

tommy71 on January 9, 2013 at 2:01 PM

lol…I know sparky….I admit it…. three dictionaries, two websites, google and I are big fat liars!

(you do know we can check your nonsense in a nanosecond, right?)

Now keep your promise and and get lost.

(lol…you won’t….trolls never do).

Tim_CA on January 9, 2013 at 2:12 PM

Just because something has been squandered doesn’t mean it wasn’t ever there.

alchemist19 on January 9, 2013 at 2:12 PM

I’m refering directly to his strength of priniple, moral fiber, and negotiating skills.

You can’t squander what you never possessed.

I absolutely have no argument, however, with your base premise.

Tim_CA on January 9, 2013 at 2:15 PM

Boehner is supposed to be Speaker of the House, second in line for the presidency behind the VP, and he won’t even go into negotiations? What a joke.

Ward Cleaver on January 10, 2013 at 9:54 AM

“GOP turns to McConnell for entitlement-reform fight”

Still going to lose.

rrpjr on January 10, 2013 at 11:16 AM

All these big brains can’t figure out what a negative number and a positive number are….. Anytime any of these fiscally irresponsible morons want educate themselves on how to run a budget, they can look me up, I have consistently over the years and multitude of administrations have had to tighten my household budget because of their consistent increasingly overreaching taxation and regulation.

ActinUpinTexas on January 10, 2013 at 11:30 AM

GREAT…..since Boehner has proven to be a complete FAILURE as Speaker of the House at getting anything done in a House where the GOP holds the Majority, let’s put all of our ‘hopes’ on the shoulders of Mitch McConnell, the Senate MINORITY Leader who can’t get squat done due to the fact that the Liberals hold the Majority & Harry Obstructonist’ Reid has been content to reap the high salary & massive benefits paid for by our tax dollars for doing absolutely NOTHING for the last few years…and is content to KEEP DOING SO!


easyt65 on January 10, 2013 at 12:29 PM