Media Advisory: NPR News Interviews Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell NPR's Susan Davis and Kelsey Snell spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about the recent tax legislation, plans for 2018, entitlement reform and investigations relating to Russia.
NPR logo Media Advisory: NPR News Interviews Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Media Advisory: NPR News Interviews Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks from the chamber to his office during votes on amendments to the GOP overhaul of the tax bill on Dec. 1. He told NPR on Thursday that he is seeking more bipartisan legislation in 201 J. Scott/AP hide caption

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J. Scott/AP

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks from the chamber to his office during votes on amendments to the GOP overhaul of the tax bill on Dec. 1. He told NPR on Thursday that he is seeking more bipartisan legislation in 201

J. Scott/AP

Thursday, December 21st; In an interview airing on today's All Things Considered, NPR's Susan Davis and Kelsey Snell spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about the recent tax legislation, plans for 2018, entitlement reform and investigations relating to Russia.

During the interview McConnell noted, "This has not been a very bipartisan year," however he laid out hopes for bipartisan work on several issues in 2018, and broke with House Speaker Paul Ryan on an approach to entitlements, saying he is "not interested" in using reconciliation for a GOP-only package of spending cuts on social welfare programs. Ryan has said he would like to use reconciliation, which requires a simple majority in the Senate and can avoid the need for any Democrats to support legislation.

McConnell also said that the Senate is unlikely to visit any major legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act: "I think we'll probably move on to other issues." He also expressed optimism for a bipartisan bill on immigration in the New Year.

McConnell also said he did not see a risk of President Trump firing special counsel Robert Mueller, and said he is not urging Senate investigators to wrap up their Russia probe until they are ready. McConnell said he hopes the investigation will result in a bipartisan recommendation from Senate Intelligence leaders Richard Burr and Mark Warner on how Congress should respond and prevent.

More analysis of the interview available here: https://www.npr.org/2017/12/21/572588692/mcconnell-wants-bipartisanship-in-2018-on-entitlements-immigration-and-more

Stations and broadcast times are available at NPR.org/stations.

Excerpts of the interview are available below and can be cited with attribution. The full transcript will be made available after the interview has aired.

On how the tax bill would affect midterm elections, McConnell said, "We'll have a political debate in the fall about whether this was to the advantage of the American people. We feel very comfortable making that argument. Obviously they [Democrats] saw it differently. This ended up being a party-line exercise, but we're very comfortable with this and think we can make an argument to the American people that this was to their advantage."

On the prospects for entitlement spending in 2018, McConnell said, "I think entitlement changes, to be sustained, almost always have to be bipartisan. And I don't think doing one party only entitlement changes is something I'm interested in doing, the House may have a different agenda. If our democratic friends in the Senate want to join us to tackle any kind of entitlement reform, I'd be happy to take a look at it."

On welfare reform, McConnell said, "It's hard for me to envision, frankly, doing any kind of entitlement changes if we can't do it on a bipartisan basis." He also said he is "not interested" in entitlement legislation with one party using reconciliation, as some House leaders have discussed.

On immigration, McConnell said, "The president's actually incentivized us by putting a time limit on the DACA program, to come forward and see what we can agree to for, not only a permanent change on that, but also some other items as well. And there are constructive bipartisan discussions going on already. I put together a group with Senator Grassley, Senator Durbin and others to address that issue. And we have until March to do that, and I'm confident we will."

On healthcare legislation, McConnell said, "I think the repeal of the individual mandate takes the heart out of Obamacare. There will be some adjustments that have to be made. I've committed to Senator Collins, for example, that we can figure a way forward to help her. And she was a supporter of getting rid of the individual mandate, but we want to steady the insurance markets if we can. She has a proposal she supports that she and Senator Nelson are for, and also Senator Alexander and Senator Murray, that the president's committed to signing. And so that tells you it's a real bill that can get an outcome. And I think we'll probably be addressing that part of healthcare next year."

On any major legislation to repeal the ACA, McConnell said, "I think we'll probably move on to other issues."

On the time-frame of Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Russia, McConnell said, "I'd like to see them conclude when they get through. You know, these things always tend to take a lot longer than you hope, but I haven't said to Burr and Warner, 'finish.'"

On the possible firing of special counsel Robert Mueller, McConnell said, "The only people that talk about that are the Democrats. I must say, I thought it was not great judgment for the special counsel to hire people who were donors to Hillary Clinton. But I don't hear anybody at the White House, or any Republicans, and certainly not in the Senate, calling for Mueller to be fired. It strikes me that's sort of a Democratic effort to protect him from something he doesn't need to be protected from."

Contact:

Ben Fishel, NPR Media Relations
Email: mediarelations (at) npr.org