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.

But Gregg said McConnell “is not going to move forward without Boehner participating either directly or indirectly.”

Senior Republican aides say McConnell is not looking to supplant Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in deficit-reduction talks but he will play whatever role is necessary to achieve progress.