Mitch McConnell offered a preview Wednesday of the combative approach he may take in running the Senate during President Barack Obama’s final years in office.
“There certainly are going to be areas of disagreement,” the Kentucky Republican, who is expected to become the next Senate majority leader, said in his first comments since the GOP took control of the chamber.
McConnell disagreed with the administration’s approach on everything from the environment to health care and banking regulations.
Still, offered to explore common ground on areas like tax reform and international trade. He also vowed to get the Senate back to its traditional work order, allowing amendments on both sides and empowering committees.
“The American people have changed the Senate, so I think we have an obligation to change the behavior of the Senate,” McConnell said. “That doesn’t guarantee that the president is going to agree with everything we do. ”
His comments come ahead of an expected public appearance by President Barack Obama later Wednesday. The President’s party took a dramatic hit during Tuesday’s midterm elections. Republicans will hold at least 52 seats in the Senate and hold the largest House majority since World War II, according to CNN projections.
It will take time to see whether McConnell has running room from conservatives within his party who may prefer a strategy of confrontation.
The president, meanwhile, must consider how he can safeguard his own political legacy of health care reform, a Wall Street overhaul and an uneven economic recovery.
Obama will be under pressure to show some humility and an acknowledgment that voters had sent him a message.
In 2010, after his first mid-term election debacle, the president admitted he had suffered a “shellacking.”
He bounced back from that to win reelection in 2012 but the dynamics of a second term are different and the president has often struggled to build political capital while in office.
Senior Democratic House member Chris Van Hollen laid out a possible approach by the president, arguing that Obama had repeatedly offered compromise to Republicans but had always been rejected.
“This is a two way street. The president is more than willing to continue his efforts to reach out,” Van Hollen told CNN.
A White House official told CNN, when asked whether the president was ready to be more conciliatory toward Republicans, said the “better question is whether the GOP wants to work with us.”
There were also early signs on Wednesday that key 2016 contenders are jockeying for position — despite offering ritual assurances that they have not yet made up their minds about a run.
“This was not only a repudiation of the president, but I think really a repudiation of Hillary Clinton,” Rand Paul, a potential Republican hopeful told CNN, apparently envisioning a match up with the front-running Democrat.
Tuesday’s results threw up some intriguing new possibilities for the Republican field in 2016.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has now won election, staved off a recall and won re-election in a state that leans Democratic and is considered by many observers to be in the top tier of GOP 2016 hopefuls.
In Ohio, Republican Gov John Kasich was reelected in a state where many Republican White House dreams have died.
A clutch of senators, including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham are also mulling presidential runs, along with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
The Republican tide also produced some stunning upsets in gubernatorial contests. Republicans took governor’s mansions in reliably Democratic states like Massachusetts, Illinois and Maryland.
Democrat Charlie Crist meanwhile failed to oust Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Tom Wolf unseated Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in a marquee race.