WASHINGTON -- Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the soon-to-be majority leader of the U.S. Senate, promised both combat and cooperation with President Barack Obama in a post-election news conference Wednesday, pledging to take some of the GOP's most destructive tactics off the table.
"Let me make it clear: there will be no government shutdowns, and no default on the national debt," McConnell told reporters, in effect repudiating the ugly confrontations in 2011 and 2013 that were sparked largely by his Republican colleagues in the House.
In both those cases, McConnell tried and failed to broker deals to avoid the worst. During the showdown over raising the nation's debt limit in 2011, he was thwarted by tea party members in the lower chamber, while in the lead-up to the government shutdown a little over a year ago, it was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who stood in the way.
Such a blanket statement will likely be welcome news to Obama, as will McConnell's pledge to try and work with the administration on a number of key issues. Among these were trade deals, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and tax reform, all of which McConnell suggested could be in the offing. None of those priorities are likely to work out the way many progressives would like, but the Obama administration and centrist Democrats have signaled a willingness to proceed on them.
With 53 or 54 Republicans in the majority come January, McConnell would only need six or seven Democrats to advance legislation over a filibuster.
But regardless of what the majority of Democrats want, McConnell predicted they would roll over for whatever deals he crafts with Obama.
"Look, there’s only one Democrat who counts -- the president," McConnell said.
But he also pledged to push ahead with priorities like chipping away at Obamacare. In those cases, McConnell acknowledged, there would be fights.
“The veto pen is a pretty big thing," he said, noting that Obama will definitely be "a player" in the legislative debates of the upcoming term.
McConnell also pledged to target various executive agencies, saying the GOP would curb them by choking off funding."I think it's reasonable to assume that we will use the power of the purse to try to push back against this overactive bureaucracy," he said, singling out environmental regulation as an example. "You can look for us to go after those kind of things through the spending process, which I think is our best tool."
"The relationship I've had with the president has always been cordial," McConnell said, suggesting that government could function once again, in the same way it did when Bill Clinton presided over a Republican Congress in the 1990s.
During his own press conference Wednesday, Obama downplayed suggestions that he did not do enough to build a rapport with McConnell. The president let out an audible sigh when ABC's Jonathan Karl asked him if he should have met with the Kentucky Republican more often.
"He has always been very straightforward with me," Obama said of McConnell. "To his credit, he has never made a promise he couldn’t deliver."
The president also said he was optimistic about having a "productive relationship" with McConnell and expressed his interest in having some Kentucky bourbon with the presumed majority leader.
This article has been updated to include comment from President Obama and further comment from Sen. McConnell.