The U.S. Senate's next majority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, says Americans voted for a new direction, and that bipartisan progress can be made if the Obama administration recognizes the will of the people.
McConnell made his first comments on the Senate floor since last week’s midterm elections, as President Barack Obama prepares to confront a Republican-led Congress for his final two years in office.
A newly empowered McConnell Wednesday urged Obama to work with Congress on pressing current business, like funding the federal government beyond next month, and to forgo actions that would enrage Republicans, like taking executive action on immigration reform.
“Working together requires trust. I think President Obama has a duty to help build the trust we all need to move forward together," he said. "Not to double down on old ways of doing business. That is why I think moving forward with the unilateral action on immigration he has planned would be a big mistake, as was last night’s announcement to essentially give China a free pass on emissions while hurting middle class families and struggling miners here in our country. Let us not do things to hurt the possibility of a cooperative partnership."
On a visit to Asia, Obama and his Chinese counterpart announced ambitious targets to reduce both countries’ carbon emissions in coming decades.
For months, the president has stated his intention to act on immigration if Congress refuses to do so. Republican lawmakers have decried executive action, but have not rallied behind a comprehensive immigration reform bill of their own.
In January, McConnell will replace the current majority leader, Democrat Harry Reid, who struck a conciliatory tone Wednesday after years of pitched partisan battles on the chamber floor.
“It is clear that the American people want us to join together to get things done for the middle class and all Americans. Although the desks in this great chamber may move around and change, our duty to help working American families never will. Senate Democrats are ready to work in good faith," said Reid.
Last week, Republicans won a slim Senate majority and expanded an already substantial majority in the House of Representatives.
The election results appear to have given new impetus to a proposal to build a controversial pipeline to transport oil from Canada. After Reid and McConnell spoke Wednesday, Democratic senators from energy-rich states joined with Republicans to press for a vote to approve the so-called Keystone Pipeline, which is fiercely opposed by environmentalists and their Democratic allies in Congress.