McConnell to Outline GOP Post-Partisan Path

Posted January 23, 2009 at 7:00am

With his party struggling, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday will give the first in a series of speeches by GOP leaders outlining areas in which Republicans believe they can work with Democrats, including newly elected President Barack Obama. McConnell’s Friday speech at the National Press Club was drafted in coordination with House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), and it will focus largely on policy issues McConnell believes can be addressed in a bipartisan manner, with an emphasis on entitlement reform. Boehner will give the Republicans’ Saturday radio response to Obama’s first radio address to the nation, according to GOP aides. In the first major policy speech by a Republican leader since Obama was sworn in — and McConnell’s first at the Press Club since he laid out his party’s position on campaign finance reform in 1997 — the Senate Minority Leader will address the broad themes of Obama’s inaugural speech. One source familiar with its language said the speech will focus “on the post-partisan dynamic” and on avoiding the partisan posturing that has been a hallmark of the House and Senate over much of the past decade. Although much of the speech will focus on areas where Republicans feel they can work with Democrats, McConnell will also include an explicit criticism of Democrats. McConnell will argue that in order for bipartisanship to grow, Democrats will have to resist the temptation to use difficult bipartisan votes — like last year’s financial sector bailout vote — as fodder in future elections. Former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Schumer’s (N.Y.) decision to use the bailout vote — which he supported — against McConnell and others rubbed many Republicans the wrong way. Nonetheless, said the source, McConnell will acknowledge that “we’re all grown up politicians around here” and understand how the game is played. Next Friday, in an address to the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting in Washington, McConnell will lay out a broad critique of the state of the party and outline steps the GOP will need to begin moving forward from its November defeat, Senate Republican sources said. In the RNC speech, McConnell will “provide his view on how the party can rebuild its strength nationwide,” one Republican said. The GOP’s electoral losses in the past two years have exposed what many see as a significant weakness in how the party has developed, Republicans explained, pointing out that in many ways the GOP has become confined largely to the South and parts of the West and is in danger of becoming little more than a regional party. McConnell will use his Jan. 30 speech to argue that the GOP must reassert what he and other leaders see as mainstream conservative philosophies, while avoiding partisan and divisive issues that have limited its influence. Although McConnell’s speech could prove unpopular with the activists who generally attend the winter meeting, it could also provide a rallying cry for old-line Republicans to reassert their authority within the party, one GOP source familiar with the meeting said.