WASHINGTON ― Newly secure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) laid out Wednesday how he intends to work with President-elect Donald Trump. And it comes down to trying to unravel every bit of President Barack Obama’s legacy that they can, starting with health care and environment.
“I think we all agree this is a stunning election, and clearly an indication the American people would like to try something new,” McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill. “We intend to work with [Trump] to change the course for America.”
Changing that course will happen most visibly with the Supreme Court after McConnell kept open the vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia, specifically so a Republican president could possibly fill it.
But perhaps even sooner, McConnell would like Trump to start dismantling Obama’s efforts to curb global warming, beginning with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to dramatically reduce emissions. The Supreme Court recently kicked it back to a lower court to decide if it is constitutional. McConnell thinks Trump could simply drop the case, and let the power companies win.
“That would sure be my hope,” McConnell said. “Day one would be a good idea.”
And, as the GOP tried more than 60 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act without success with Obama in office, that legislation will be a target, too, McConnell said.
“It is a pretty high item on the agenda. I would be shocked if we did not move forward to keep our commitment to the American people,” he said. “It is the single worst piece of legislation among many bad pieces of legislation passed in the first two years of the Obama presidency. The sooner we can go in a different direction, the better.”
And really, the Supreme Court, Obamacare and the Clean Power Plan are just a start.
McConnell said he was hopeful Trump would target all the Obama administration’s environmental regulations and executive orders, and just about everything else that Obama did on his own over the years while the GOP tried to block him.
In the labor area alone, Obama passed numerous executive orders safeguarding labor rights, equal pay and workplace safety, and boosting pay for federal contractors. And Obama was forced to act on his own to deal with immigration issues, including slowing deportations for some immigrants and giving people who came to the United States as children some protections.
Trump can undo all that, McConnell said.
“One of the things I hope the new president — he mentioned this during the campaign — will do is take a look at all the unilateral actions that the president took, both through executive orders and regulatory overreach of one kind or another,” said McConnell.
He was asked about regulations on the coal industry specifically, but he made his answer much broader, saying he would like to “see how much [Trump] can undo of the unilateral actions the president took all by himself, which would not require us.”
McConnell cast the health and safety regulations in purely economic terms, arguing that their main effect was to hurt business.
“We have to get this economy going again. We’ve got to get our foot off the brake and put it on the accelerator, and much of that can be done by the president alone, because much of the problem has been created by this president alone,” McConnell said. “So, we will be working with the administration to make suggestions about what kind of unilateral actions he can take to undo some of this regulatory overreach that has slowed the economy so much.”
The election results guarantee that McConnell will rule for the next two years. And because there are only eight Republicans up for re-election in 2018, he has a strong chance of maintaining control through an entire Trump term, until McConnell faces his own re-election contest in 2020.
Kate Sheppard and Dave Jamieson contributed reporting.