Sen. McConnell: ‘We Can Do Business’ with Obama if He Moves to Center

By Cullen Dirner

Sep 2, 2010 2:41pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell had his first one-on-one meeting with President Obama a few weeks ago, shortly before Congress broke for its summer recess. But in the coming months, with Republicans likely to pick up significant political ground in this fall’s elections, McConnell is anticipating many more meetings like it. “I think I'll be seeing a lot more of him in the future,” McConnell, R-Ky., said today on ABC/Washington Post’s “Top Line.” “And I think if we have a larger number of Republicans, it will hopefully move him to the political center, which is the way he ran in '08, but not the way he's governed since then. And hopefully,  if he moves to the center or the right of center, we can to do business.” McConnell said there are several big areas where Republicans can work with a Democratic White House. “We're interested in cutting spending and debt. If he becomes interested in that, I think he'll find us a willing partner,” he said. “He says he's for trade agreements. We'd like to ratify trade agreements. He says he is for nuclear power. We'd like to do that. He says he is for clean coal technology. We'd like to do that. I mean, there are areas where we'd ought to be able to work together for the good of the country.” Such bipartisanship is unlikely to commence before the election, where the biggest item on the congressional agenda is whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts that are due to expire at the end of the year. Democrats want them extended for all except households earning more than $250,000 a year; Republicans insist that they should be extended across the board. “This is a debate on tax increases. The current level of taxes has been there almost a decade,” McConnell said. “So the question is whether it's a good idea to raise tax on the top two brackets in the middle of what most Americans think is a recession. If you do that, you will impact 250,000 small businesses. They produce 50 percent of small business income, and it affects 25 percent of the workforce. So the question we're going to be asking when we get back is, 'Do you think that is good for the economy? Do you think this will get the economy growing again?’ This is a debate we're anxious to have.” McConnell said the small-business jobs bill the president is pushing for “may” pass later this month, but cautioned that “it shouldn’t be oversold.” “There is a little itty-bitty small business bill that no one thinks will have much of an impact on the economy, because they want to stick into it a too-big-to-fail provision and did stick it in. But the larger question is that business is sitting there, hoarding cash because they are concerned of the health care taxes, the health care mandates, the tax increases that are coming in September potentially. This administration has done a lot to discourage business from growing and hiring, and that's the problem." On Iraq, McConnell said while he’s criticized the president for not saying publicly that he opposed the troop surge that wounded up helping the security situation, he largely approves of his strategy going forward. “I wasn't that hard on him. I approve of what he is doing in Iraq,” McConnell said. “He was following the agreement that was entered into by the previous administration under which we'd go down to 50,000 troops on August of this year. He kept to that timetable.  I think it was the right thing to do. I think it would've been a little more gracious on his part to have given President Bush some credit. “He talks about all he's inherited, but he doesn't talk about what he's inherited from the previous administration in Iraq. He's kept their strategy. He kept General [David] Petraeus. Why not occasionally admit that the previous administration did something you approved of and decided to follow? “Most of my members support what the president is doing in Afghanistan. We think he's on the right track. So this is an area where his problems are not with us, but potentially, in the future, with his own people.” McConnell also asserted that he’s already locked down enough support ensure that he’ll retain his post as Republican leader next year. Watch the full interview with Sen. Mitch McConnell, with Amy Walter and I hosting “Top Line” from New York today, HERE. For our “Post Politics” program, we checked in with Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, who is writing a book about Glenn Beck, about Beck’s rally over the weekend in Washington. Beck, Milbank told us, is a “brilliant opportunist” who is using religion to attract a larger audience. Watch the discussion with Dana Milbank HERE. – Rick Klein

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