New U.S. Senate leader may be a strategic ally for Obama

A member of the opposing party taking the top spot in the Senate may be a blessing in disguise for Obama.

New U.S. Senate leader may be a strategic ally for Obama

World Bulletin/News Desk

The man set to assume leadership of the Senate brings with him three decades of experience, and may be a strategic partner for Barack Obama in the final two years of his presidency.

Republicans swept midterm elections Tuesday, taking control of the Senate, and furthering their hold on the House of Representatives. With the decisive Republican victories, Obama now lacks partisan support in the Senate, and will need to emphasize bipartisanship if he is going to continue to pursue policy.

Following the Republican’s strong Senate showing, Mitch McConnell, the 72-year-old Senator from Kentucky, is now expected to become Senate Majority Leader in a Congress whose chambers will be led by a single party for the first time since 2011.

McConnell will join House Speaker John Boehner in leading congressional Republicans as they seek to stamp out a clear mark on U.S. policy.

In doing so, it is not yet clear if McConnell and Boehner will seek a confrontational path with Obama. Early signs point towards at least McConnell seeking a more cooperative path.

In speeches the day after the elections, Obama and McConnell signaled that they may seek a more conciliatory relationship.

“As president, I have a unique responsibility to try and make this town work,” Obama told reporters at the White House. “All of us have to give more Americans a reason to feel like the ground is stable beneath their feet.”

Of McConnell, Obama said, “he’s 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.” 

For his part, the Kentucky Senator said during a press conference in his home state that the American people expect Congress to work with the administration to find “areas of agreement.”

“We’ll see whether we can work with the president. I hope so. That’s what he says, and we’ll find out,” he said.  

While those may just be the words of two opposing leaders seeking to alleviate fears that the U.S. will see further impasses devolve into deadlock, there may yet be a chance for the Democratic president and the Senate Republican to work together to move the country forward.

While McConnell and the president clearly have differences in terms of ideology and policy priorities, McConnell’s nearly 30 years of experience in the Senate have afforded him the key legislative know-how, said John Hudak, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

“Mitch McConnell is a very, very savvy politician. And in that sense, the president will not be dealing with an amateur,” he said. “The president and the incoming majority leader are able to find some common ground, he could have a real strategic ally in Mitch McConnell because Mitch McConnell is going to be able to move some votes.”

The administration and Congress want to avoid being seen as a bulwark against progress. The American public views both extremely negatively. Obama received his lowest approval ratings to date in a poll last week, and Congress’ approval ratings languished in the teens.

McConnell said Wednesday that he will prioritize action in a Senate that has been mired in inaction.

And indeed, a member of the opposing party taking the top spot in a Senate that was run by Democrats may be a blessing in disguise for Obama.

“Obama can move Democrats, and McConnell can move the Republicans, and so that might create an opportunity to get things done,” said Hudak. "Is it going to happen a lot? Certainly not."


Last Mod: 06 Kasım 2014, 11:10
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