In an interview in October 2010, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made what would become one of the most repeated (and embellished) quotes of the Barack Obama presidency.
"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," McConnell, now the Senate majority leader, told the National Journal.
As the Washington Post explained in fall 2012, McConnell's words and the date they were spoken often have been inaccurately represented in the years since, generally by Democrats eager to present evidence of unyielding partisan opposition to Obama's every move.
But as the Illinois state budget battle kicked into high gear last summer and fall, I've heard references to McConnell's famous quote in a different context. This time it was invoked in defense of a Republican -- Gov. Bruce Rauner -- who has had limited success with a Democrat-led Legislature.
The logic was along these lines: How can Democrats excoriate a Republican Congress for not bending to the wishes of President Obama while at the same time applauding a Democratic Illinois General Assembly for not cooperating on Rauner's reform agenda?
The question ignores one fundamental nuance in the Illinois debate, where the gridlock comes from Democrats opposing Rauner's use of reforms as leverage for negotiating a budget. House Speaker Michael Madigan has stated, ad nauseum, his pledge to work "professionally and cooperatively" with Rauner on the budget, but only if Rauner leaves his reform agenda for another day. To a lot of Illinois Republicans, that position misses the entire point of Rauner's argument. It's the Illinois equivalent of McConnell's "single most important thing" quote.
Following a press conference in Springfield last week in which students and college administrators called on Rauner and the General Assembly to fund higher education, I asked U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin if he saw parallels between Obama's treatment in his first term in Washington and Rauner's in Springfield thus far.
Here's his answer:
Durbin faults Rauner for not recognizing his own inexperience in politics and failing to differentiate between success in governing and success in the business world. Rauner's approach on unions and in his dealings with Madigan, Durbin said, have not created a "conducive atmosphere for negotiating."
Given Madigan's statements about Rauner's reforms being "non-budget issues," though, one has to wonder whether such an atmosphere ever could exist.
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