Mitch McConnell, who will become the Senate Majority Leader in January, did an interview that revealed his agenda once he takes control of that legislative body. And the first priority, apparently, is to gut environmental regulation that reduces the profits of his paymasters.
But when it comes to looking out for Kentucky, a promise that was central to McConnell’s campaign message, the senator said his top priority is “to try to do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in.”
“It will be hard because the only good tool to do that … is through the spending process, and if (President Barack Obama) feels strongly enough about it, he can veto the bill,” McConnell said. “But I view it as a complete outrage that he could not get cap and trade through the Congress when he owned the place — owned the place — and decided to do it anyway.”
As he rattled off the coal-producing counties he won Tuesday for the first time in his career, McConnell said he feels a “deep responsibility” to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide emissions at coal-burning power plants.
“I’m absolutely convinced from the people I talk to around the country, not just here but around the country, that coal has a future,” McConnell said. “The question is whether or not coal is going to have a future here. It’s got a future in Europe. It’s got a future in China, India, Australia. But not here?”
He added: “It makes me very angry, and I’m going to do everything I can to try to stop them.”
So he’s revealed both his goal and his strategy. As the Senate Republicans will almost certainly do with Obamacare, they will attempt to get their agenda passed by using poison pill amendments to larger spending bills to force the president to decide which policies are worth the fallout of vetoing the bill to kill the amendment. It’s a game of political chicken to see who will blink first, guided by lots of internal polling to determine which side the public will blame for it.You can expect this dynamic to play out repeatedly over the next two years. The first really big fight will undoubtedly be over the debt ceiling, which will have to be raised around February. Republicans will use the threat of shutting down the government to try to extract concessions from Obama on several issues, including the EPA and Obamacare. Both sides will then calculate the potential damage in the eyes of the public and to the actual functioning of the government.
But McConnell has a big problem. He’s a pragmatist by nature, not a fire-breathing Tea Partier. He understands that compromise is necessary and that politics is the art of the possible. But he has maybe 8-10 people in his caucus, led by Ted Cruz, who view all compromise as betrayal and demand absolute ideological purity. And those people will try to use whatever leverage they have — their votes are enough to negate the Republican advantage — to force McConnell to be far less open to negotiation than he would otherwise be.
Remember the fight over the debt limit a year ago that shut down the government for a while? Expect that scenario to play itself out all over again. And expect similar fights over specific appropriations bills as well.