Q&A with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell

At an Aug. 5 Monitor breakfast, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell discussed prospects for bipartisan cooperation after the November election.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor/File
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky, at a Monitor breakfast Aug. 5, looked ahead to potentially more bipartisan cooperation after midterm elections.

US Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is the top-ranking Republican in the Senate, a position he has held since Republicans lost control of the chamber in 2006 and elected him leader. He was a guest speaker at the Aug. 5 Monitor breakfast in Washington. On whether the Senate is "broken," paralyzed by partisan gridlock, as a report in The New Yorker recently charged:

"I don't see the same Senate ... that this New Yorker author sees. Some of my best friends are Democrats – Chris Dodd, Harry Reid. I don't think we have a collegiality problem. What we are in the middle of is a great debate about the future of the country."

On whether the Republican Party is too focused on federal budget deficits and is ignoring the danger of deflation:

"When the Europeans are lecturing you about spending, you know you must be spending a lot – which is the experience the president had in Toronto recently."

On Republicans' chances in the 2010 elections:

"If the election were held today, my side would have a very good election.... Congress has a 20 percent approval rating. But you don't have to be in love to vote for somebody.... The American people know who has been in charge for the last year and a half, they know what the conditions in the country are, and they know they need to go in a different direction."

On prospects for bipartisan cooperation after the November election:

"What I hope we are going to have after November is more balance,... which will give us opportunities to do things together that simply were missing when you have this kind of disparity [in the Senate's composition, with 57 Democrats, 41 Republicans, and 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats]."

On where on the political spectrum he sees cooperation taking place:

"I am not going to be very interested in doing things left of center. It is going to have to be center right, and I think the president is a flexible man and I am hoping he will become a born-again moderate. "

On what he sees as specific areas for potential agreement, after meeting privately with President Obama on Aug. 4:

"To the extent that he wants to ratify trade agreements, I think he will find widespread Republican support for that.... We are in favor of nuclear power. He says he is, too. That ought to be an area we can address."

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