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McConnell Says 'Senate Needs To Be Fixed,' Discussing GOP Gains

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he sees issues where a Republican-led Congress can work with President Obama. McConnell won re-election Tuesday, as his party took control of the Senate.
Timothy D. Easley
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he sees issues where a Republican-led Congress can work with President Obama. McConnell won re-election Tuesday, as his party took control of the Senate.

One day after GOP candidates gave their party control of both chambers of Congress, presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says the Senate "needs to be fixed" — and that he and his Republican colleagues are willing to work with President Obama on some issues.

We'll update this post with news from McConnell's appearance in Louisville, Ky.

Update at 2:25 p.m. ET: On Obama And The Veto Threat

Saying "the veto pen is a pretty powerful tool," McConnell notes that both Presidents Reagan and Clinton were able to find ways to work with a Congress that was outside their control.

McConnell says his colleagues don't believe they were sent to Washington "to fight all the time" and that they'd rather focus on work that America needs.

He adds that President Obama has been "protected" from legislation he doesn't like by a Democratic Party that has largely kept bills from reaching the White House.

Update at 2:25 p.m. ET: On Foreign Policy

"The immediate concern in the health area," McConnell says, is the Ebola crisis. He also notes that he'll be discussing America's approach to Syria and ISIS.

Asked by a reporter about his "acrimonious" relationship with current Majority Leader Harry Reid, McConnell says that's not accurate.

He later adds that while Reid is still in control, the Senate must make decisions on "a number of things that have stacked up."

Saying that the Senate hadn't been doing anything recently, McConnell says he sees a need to "clear off" some of those issues.

Update at 2:25 p.m. ET: Republicans And 2016

The senator is asked about how he'll handle the varying motives of members of his own party who will have their own political agendas, with an eye toward possible presidential runs.

"I serve in a body with a bunch of class presidents," McConnell says. "I am not troubled by ambition. I think we can accommodate that and still make progress for the country."

Update at 2:23 p.m. ET: Immigration

"It's like waving a red flag in front of a bull" for the president to say he will do what he wants without regard to how Republicans feel about important domestic issues such as immigration, McConnell says.

Asked what it will be like to work with President Obama, the senator says his stance will be, "trust but verify." He adds that he has no problem getting along with Obama.

Update at 2:21 p.m. ET: The Economy

Citing "bureaucratic strangulation of our economy," McConnell says he and his Republican colleagues will push back. He cites the "war on coal" in Kentucky as an example.

Asked about a possible debt showdown, he says "Let me be clear, there will be no government shutdown" over the national debt.

Update at 2:20 p.m. ET: On Health Care

Taking a question on the health care system ushered in by President Obama, McConnell says, "There are pieces of it that are deeply unpopular with the American people."

"I think we will be addressing that issue" in a variety of ways, he says.

Update at 2:15 p.m. ET: Energy, Relevance And Obama

Saying that one priority for the Congress should be working on energy issues, McConnell adds that other areas of possible progress include international trade agreements and tax reform.

"What's exporting jobs is having the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world."

He adds that he has spoken to President Obama about the issue.

"There's only one Democrat who counts: the president," McConnell says, responding to a question about possible pushback on deals in Congress.

He also says that some prominent Democrats have called him to say they're ready for the Senate to be relevant again.

Update at 2:08 p.m. ET: 'Senate Needs To Be Fixed'

McConnell says voters "were obviously not satisfied" with the direction of the White House agenda — and he adds that they were also not happy with the dysfunction that has kept Washington from getting things done.

The senator says he received several phone calls, from fellow leaders ranging from President Obama to Sen. Ted Cruz.

McConnell then lists many previous divided governments, and their accomplishments. He says, "from an institutional view, the Senate needs to be fixed."

He goes on to add that the Senate doesn't hold many votes. And he adds that some votes will soon be held on Fridays — something he says hasn't happened lately.

McConnell said he would "open things up" and permit amendments on both sides — and to be willing to work late into the night to reach a deal.

Our original post continues:

The Republican Party's gains in the 2014 midterm elections led NPR's Ron Elving to conclude, "We need a new term for the midterm mojo that once again struck the president and his party last night."

You can review NPR's election night coverage at our archive page.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.