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After Catching a Wave, Senate Republicans Look to Legislate

Moran, right, with Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on the campaign trail. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Moran, right, with Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on the campaign trail. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Having emerged from an Election Day that many Republicans only dreamed of, the Senate Republicans’ campaign chairman was already looking forward to a Senate starting to function again.  

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., told a home state radio station that frustration with the lack of legislative activity contributed to his seeking the campaign job in the first place.  

“This place has been run, for the four years I’ve been in the United States Senate, with the goal of doing nothing,” the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said on KNSS . “Boy, this place better change. It’s why I was willing to chair the Senate campaign committee, is to get us in a position in which Sen. Reid was not the leader with the plan to do nothing, and I intend as a member of the United States Senate — not as a Republican senator but as a Kansan, as an American — to do everything I can to see that we work to accomplish things.”

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Moran had similar things to say Tuesday night as victory rolled in — and speculation began on whether a new Republican majority would be willing to be bold and face tough votes ahead of what will be a far more challenging map in 2016.  

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who will yield control of the floor to his longtime Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell from Kentucky come January, employed a legislative strategy that amounted to a prevent defense — blocking Republican amendments to avoid tough votes, with the effect of locking down the chamber.  

McConnell has repeatedly said that under his leadership, the chamber would keep the lights on for longer hours with a more open process. He’ll hold a press conference today at 2 p.m., ahead of a President Barack Obama, who is scheduled to meet the press at 2:50 p.m.  

Moran recalled for local Kansas radio listeners the first conversation he had on the Senate floor with Reid. Moran came to the Senate from the House in 2011.  

“Sen. Reid was polite and kind to me, asked me how I liked the Senate. We were standing on the Senate floor. ‘Jerry, how do you like the Senate, do you like the Senate better than the House?’ To which I responded how grateful I am to Kansans, but sir it doesn’t seem to me like we’re going to do anything,” Moran said. “And his immediate response to me was: ‘Well Jerry, you just need to understand. You need to understand we’re not going to do anything. We’re not going to do anything until after the next election.'”  

Moran conceded that some issues have too big a divide between Democrats and Republicans to get much accomplished, but like McConnell, Moran is a member of the Appropriations Committee, so it should be no surprise that the Kansan is pushing as a first step for a full cycle of spending bills to advance.  

“I would start with the simple idea that we ought to follow the law which requires us to pass a budget by April the 15th and then pass 12 appropriation bills to fund the federal government, establish our priorities, cut back on spending, but determine which programs deserve maybe more money, the same and which programs shouldn’t be funded at all,” Moran said. “Just some pretty basic things that haven’t happened here for a very long time.”  

House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., told CQ Roll Call in a recent interview that he was hopeful such a process would move forward should McConnell become majority leader, something that became a clear reality Tuesday night.  

In his own victory speech in a packed Louisville hotel ballroom Tuesday evening, the majority leader-in-waiting was once again talking about trying to work with President Barack Obama.  

“I don’t expect the President to wake up tomorrow and view the world any differently than he did when he woke up this morning. He knows I won’t either,” McConnell said. “But I do think we have an obligation to work together on issues where we can agree. I think we have a duty to.”  

“Just because we have a two-party system doesn’t mean we have to be in perpetual conflict. I think I’ve shown that to be true at critical moments in the past. I hope the president gives me the chance to show it again,” McConnell said.  

As for why McConnell appears poised to have a larger Republican Conference than estimated, Moran pointed to the disappointment Republicans faced in 2012 when they failed to unseat Obama.  

“I think Republican pollsters who were so wrong in the Mitt Romney race two years ago decided to be much more cautious and conservative in their views on Republican chances this time, and I also think there was a bit of a wave, a bit of momentum that occurred in this election campaign just in the last few days, kind of over the weekend,” Moran said. “I think the numbers, even if they were what the pollster said, they got better in a matter of a couple of days.”  

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