Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Funding a strong defense of our nation's democratic process can't wait The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (R-Ky.) told colleagues on the first full day of the new Congress to expect a dramatic change from his predecessor, Democratic leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems open to killing filibuster in next Congress Webb: Questions for Robert Mueller Steyer's impeachment solution is dead wrong MORE (Nev.).

He pledged to decentralize power in the Senate, which had become concentrated in Reid’s office during the past eight years of Democratic rule.

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“It’s time to change the business model,” McConnell said in his first lengthy speech on the floor as majority leader. “We need to return to regular order. We need to get committees working again. We need to recommit to a rational, functional appropriations process.”

He promised to “open up the legislative process” to allow senators on both sides of the aisle more opportunity to offer and vote on amendments.

That approach will mean working long weeks and later hours, he warned.

“But restoring the Senate is the right thing to do. And it’s the practical thing to do,” he said.

McConnell said the nation has lost faith in government and no longer trusts Washington.

Looking overseas, he said, Americans are worried about instability in the Middle East and the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq in Syria.

He said voters sent a clear message to President Obama, whose party suffered devastating losses in the midterm elections: It’s time to change course and “move to the middle.”

“If voters hit the brakes four years ago, this time they spun the wheel,” he said in reference to the 2010 midterm elections, which Obama at the time described as a “shellacking.”

McConnell said voters want a government of the 21st century that is focused on “modernizing and streamlining government” instead of “adding more layers to it.”

He said the new Republican majority would pursue reform of “a broken tax system,” trade legislation to open more markets to American exports and bipartisan infrastructure projects such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

McConnell noted that throughout the last Congress, the House passed jobs bills with Democratic support that failed to receive votes in the Senate.
 
Reflecting on his ascension to majority leader, McConnell said he draws inspiration each time he walks in his office from portraits of former Kentucky Sens. John Sherman Cooper (R) and Alben Barkley (D) that adorn the walls, and from a bust of Sen. Henry Clay, a Whig who was known as the Great Compromiser of the 19th century.

“Each of these senators — each of these Kentuckians — came from a different political party. Each viewed the world through a different ideological lens. But all of them believed in the Senate. And all of them left behind important lessons for today,” he said.