McConnell: Senate GOP will pursue more bipartisan agenda in 2018

McConnell: Senate GOP will pursue more bipartisan agenda in 2018
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Senate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial Republicans will pay on Election Day for politicizing Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Ky.) on Friday said he expects 2018 to be a more bipartisan year compared to 2017, a year when Republicans confirmed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and passed tax reform with party-line votes.

“One thing you can say about this year is that it was pretty partisan,” McConnell told reporters at a year-end press conference.

McConnell said next year will be different.

He said with a smaller, one-seat GOP majority next year, it will be difficult pass legislation without Democratic support. Sen.-elect Doug Jones (D-Ala.) will be sworn in in the new year.

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“There are areas, I think, where we can get bipartisan agreement,” McConnell said, pointing to a bill passed by the Senate Banking Committee earlier this year with Democratic support that would roll back part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

The legislation would ease regulations on community lenders.

He said he could also schedule a vote early next year on immigration legislation being negotiated by a bipartisan working group.

“If they can come up with an agreement the administration is comfortable with … we’ll devote floor time to that in January as well,” he said, referring to a possible bill to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children from deportation.

“We’re going to be looking for areas of bipartisan agreement because that’s way the Senate is,” he added.

McConnell explained that in the future, trying to move major legislation such as health-care and tax reform under special budget rules that require only 51 votes for final passage can only be done in “a few narrow exceptions.”

The GOP also attempted to repeal and replace ObamaCare solely with Republican votes in 2017 but fell one vote shy when Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials MORE (R-Ariz.) defeated the GOP bill in a dramatic late-night vote.

One major question that Trump and GOP leaders will have to decide at their next meeting is what to do about entitlement reform, which Ryan has identified as a priority for next year. That meeting is scheduled for the first week of January.

McConnell on Thursday said he did not envision entitlement reform getting much floor time next year because of staunch Democratic opposition.

“I think the Democrats are not going to be interested in entitlement reform so I would not expect to see that on the agenda,” he said at an event sponsored by Axios. 

The leader stepped back from that declarative statement on Friday and said he would wait to meet with Trump and Ryan before stating the likelihood of moving welfare reform.

“The president, the Speaker and I are going to be meeting, I believe, the first week of January to see what the top priority items are for next year,” he said.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, a senior Trump adviser, said this week that on Jan. 3 the administration plans to begin work on welfare reform, entitlement reform and an infrastructure investment package at the same time.