I had a chance to join in on a half-hour conference call today with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who took questions from a group of American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax Reform board members that was organized and moderated by Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norquist. McConnell made his view clear from the start that the Senate is no longer dysfunctional as it was when Democrat Harry Reid was Majority Leader, and that this is an important achievement. McConnell said that in Reid’s years as Majority Leader, not much got done, and Reid only allowed 15 roll-call votes on amendments, yet this year alone Republicans have allowed 165 roll-call votes on amendments. In the last five years the Senate under the Democrats didn’t pass one budget. But this year the Republicans did pass a budget. McConnell said these were important accomplishments even with Obama in the White House. Though Democrats have been able to filibuster and stall some legislation, McConnell notes that Republicans “got enough Democrats to weigh in on the Iran treaty” in opposition, and that this could encourage a new President to scrap the bad Iran deal entirely, because it is an executive agreement that can be changed by the President, and is not a treaty.
McConnell said the idea that nothing has changed in Washington as a result of the last election is inaccurate. He said the policy agenda in the Senate is totally different from Harry Reid’s. What can change further is winning the White House. More than just stopping Obama’s liberal legislative agenda today, “we really have to win White House,” said McConnell.
The Majority Leader cited debate on the upcoming Budget Control Act as very important. The Budget Control Act has indeed reduced federal government spending without raising taxes. But there is pressure to undue the caps from some conservatives who want more military spending and from liberals who “want to increase spending on everything else.”
McConnell said he would not support tax increases, including a proposed tax increase for a highway bill and also on the capital gains tax. He said, “what we need to do is scrub the whole code.” But he said that won’t happen with Obama in the White House because “we can’t do comprehensive tax reform since Obama won’t allow a ‘tax neutral’ change” – he wants more tax, and he basically wants to tax job creators more, and not treat all taxpayers the same way.
Asked if he had endorsed a Presidential candidate, McConnell said he has not endorsed anyone. He said he likes his friend from Kentucky Rand Paul, but he is more focused on holding the Senate and especially the “purple state incumbents,” as in New Hampshire, with a chance for a pick up in the Senate in Nevada, and a chance in Colorado.
The Majority Leader said he opposed new gun control laws, which he sees as not addressing the real problem of the recent rash of violence as at the community college in Oregon. He said if there is to be new legislation, it should concentrate on the problem, which is mental illness, as “none of the gun control bills” he has heard about would have any impact at all reducing such crimes. Rather, focus might be given on the seriously mentally impaired people who commit the crimes. “Let’s talk about addressing mental illness, keeping people on their medication, getting them help” to try to avert such tragedies.