McConnell working to retain significant influence in Trump-era Republican majority

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is reportedly working behind the scenes to give Republicans a running start should they win elections in November.

The Kentucky Republican is set to step down from his leadership role at the end of the year but will evidently still play a role in policymaking if his party succeeds in securing majorities in Congress and landing presumptive nominee Donald Trump back in the White House.

Getting Trump’s agenda through would be McConnell’s goal as some GOP lawmakers say he is “building the groundwork for a big budget reconciliation package that would extend the Trump-era tax cuts and provide a major boost for defense spending,” according to The Hill.

Addressing the possibility of unified control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) spoke at a Senate Republican Policy lunch last week about readying the agenda for a budget reconciliation package. McConnell reportedly was very “focused” at the meeting, according to one senator in attendance.

“This looks to me like a McConnell-driven project. McConnell invited [Johnson] to come over, McConnell spoke repeatedly” during the meeting, “and he kept emphasizing, ‘You know we really need to be prepared, we need to get legislation written now,’” said the senator. “Mitch seemed very focused.”

Whether it’s Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Senate Republican Whip John Thune (SD), or another lawmaker who succeeds McConnell, Republicans seem to be concentrating efforts on being ready at the starting gate after November’s results.

McConnell has been “very much” involved, according to Cornyn, a member of the Finance Committee.

“We need to be prepared to hit the ground running in January,” he said, adding that McConnell is “very much a part of this process.”

“It’s going to be really important to all of us if President Trump is elected and if we have the majority of both houses to be able to extend the current expiring tax provisions,” he said, according to The Hill.

McConnell’s criticism of the former president created tensions between them and earned him plenty of choice words from Trump. But at a lunch at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters last week, it appeared they buried the hatchet, with Trump reportedly praising the GOP leader and not saying a word about their differences.

“Senate Republicans say they wasted valuable time in 2017, the first few months of Trump’s first term, because they didn’t have a clear plan for how to use the budget reconciliation process to get Trump’s agenda past Democratic opposition,” The Hill reported, noting how GOP lawmakers do not want to be caught unprepared again.

“It is natural and consistent with his M.O. [modus operandi] that he wants to leave whoever the next leader is in as good a position as possible to tackle the problems they’ll be looking at in 2025,” Rohit Kumar, McConnell’s former deputy chief of staff said.

“While he never takes anything for granted, you prepare for all eventualities including the one in which Republicans have the House, the Senate, and the White House,” added Kumar. “There will be intense pressure to move as quickly as possible on a reconciliation bill.”

McConnell, a senior member of the Senate Rules Committee, could step into 2025 as chair of the Appropriations Committee or Defense Appropriations Subcommittee where he would, as the country’s longest-serving Senate party leader, hold a great deal of influence.

“He hasn’t made a decision on that yet, but he obviously would still be incredibly influential whatever he does, whether in Appropriations or whatever role he has.” one Senate GOP strategist said. “He’s someone who knows how to operate within the chamber and understands the rules, knows how to make a big impact regardless of whether he’s in the elected leadership.”

If he has been busy laying the groundwork behind the scenes, McConnell did not let on when speaking to reporters.

“The first step is we need to have a Republican president, a Republican House, and a Republican Senate or there will be no reconciliation at all. It is an important tool. We hope to have an opportunity to use it,” he said.

Frieda Powers

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