Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s Republican leader, knows how to count:
(Soon to be 55-45, with the election this week of Democrat Cory Booker of Newark.)
It tells him what he needs to know about his minority party’s leverage in the Senate. He knows something about football, too, and in the closing days of the partial government shutdown that ended this week, the Kentucky Republican says, he felt like a team on the two-yard line with nowhere to punt — and the House wasn’t creating any openings.
McConnell also says this in an “exit interview” with National Review Online’s Robert Costa: There will be no more government shutdowns on his watch.
As for Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who led his party into a Quixotic challenge of the president’s health-care law and the 16-day government shutdown that followed:
“A government shutdown is off the table,” McConnell said, asked about the next deadlines for budget and debt decisions in January and February. “We’re not going to do it.”
Cruz, in an interview with ABC News. says he hasn’t ruled out another showdown.
“I would do anything, and I will continue to do anything I can, to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare,” said Cruz, asked by ABC News’ Jon Karl if he would rule out another shutdown. “The test that matters Jon, is are we doing anything for all the people that are getting hurt from Obamacare?”
— Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) October 18, 2013
“It’s really a matter of simple math: 54 is more than 46,” McConnell told Costa. “And, of course, when you add in the president, you knew it had no chance of success. So I knew we’d end up in the place where we ended up. What I could not have predicted is that we’d end up in that place and have so few cards to play.”
“To use a football analogy, by the time it was clear the House couldn’t pass anything, I was on the two-yard line, trying to see how I could punt to get us into a better field position to live to fight another day … But it didn’t have anything else attached to it because the House couldn’t send anything that would give me any ability to negotiate.”
Is the House a functioning majority?
“Look, I’m just going to talk about the facts,” McConnell said. “I’m in a weaker position when the House can’t act.”
Does he have any hope for the bicameral budget conference that was required by the agreement that ended the shutdown?
` I wish them well. But with all due respect to all of my congressional colleagues, there is only one Democrat who really counts — the president. And they’ll support whatever he agrees to. I’ve said that to the president on a number of occasions: You’re the Democrat who counts. If you’re willing to work with us to solve this problem, don’t use congressional Democrats as an excuse. They may not like it, but they’ll vote with you.”
What about tax reform, particularly anything involving revenue?
“Tax reform is possible, but they won’t engage in dynamic scoring. We know if we had a more rational tax code, there would be more revenue through growth. They won’t count dynamic revenue increases. They want revenue that’s CBO scored. If we could get them to credit for revenue through growth, maybe we’d get somewhere.”
On another shutdown:
“One of my favorite sayings is an old Kentucky saying: `There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.’ The first kick of the mule was in 1995; the second one was the last 16 days. A government shutdown is off the table. We’re not going to do it.”
One last thing, Costa asked: “What’s your take on Senator Ted Cruz, who led the “quixotic venture?”
“I don’t have any observations to make on that,” McConnell said.