Not surprisingly, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has emerged as the key Republican player at the negotiating table as Senate leaders try to reach an agreement on raising the debt ceiling and reopening the government. This is good for the country, but bad for Senator McConnell. He would loved to have stayed on the bench this fall and not have to wallow in the ugly legislative process surrounding the shutdown specifically and Washington politics generally.
Senator McConnell is vulnerable because he has a primary opponent back home in Kentucky that he needs to pay attention to. And, any sign that McConnell is being viewed as a leader in Washington, or dare I say, as indispensable to a rational governing process, is an added vulnerability that his primary opponent will likely try to exploit. The very fact that McConnell might get caught being part of the solution in Washington puts him on the defensive back home.
McConnell is one of the few people in Washington who always has a plan. He actually looks two or three moves down the board and sees not only what his opponents are capable of, but what is actually possible on any given issue. And importantly, McConnell can count votes. Able vote counters have been AWOL since denial and bombast became the order of the day within the GOP.
Unfortunately for Senator McConnell, he has had to get back in the game and return to his “adult in the room” position sooner than he would have liked. Sorry Mitch, our country calls; I just hope rejoining the game doesn’t produce a career-ending injury. It will be interesting to see who among your GOP colleagues supports you after you have negotiated as good a deal as is possible on their behalf.
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