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Rand Paul’s success as lawmaker now largely in the hands of Mitch McConnell

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

By Bill Estep and Halimah Abdullah – bestep@herald-leader.com

Even as he celebrated winning Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race Tuesday night, tea party-backed Republican Rand Paul sketched out the next big question.

“We came from nowhere and won a big victory. Now we have to see if we can do something with the victory,” Paul said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s senior senator, in large measure holds the answer to that question for Paul and other maverick Senate newcomers.

It will be interesting to see the dynamics between McConnell, a master of the establishment GOP, and Paul and others who won election by throwing rocks at that establishment, analysts said.

There is a fight for the soul of the party, said Jasmine Farrier, a political science professor at the University of Louisville.

“I see a lot of tension here. They either co-opt the tea party or the tea party co-opts them,” Farrier said of the Republican establishment. “Neither of those things will be easy.”

Paul believes the tea party message is winning.

“We’re shaping the debate and the party is coming in our direction, I think,” he said during a campaign stop Monday.

In an interview with CNN the next morning, Paul said that although he will agree with McConnell in many areas, “we will challenge him from day to day.”

And when he won that night, Paul made clear he intends to try to rattle the cage in Washington, listing a litany of issues he will ask the Senate to consider, including why citizens have to balance their budgets but Congress doesn’t. Another signature piece of Paul’s campaign was a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.

Republicans gained several Senate seats Tuesday, narrowing the gap with Democrats and giving McConnell more power.

Even if some of the newcomers don’t want to cooperate with McConnell, he will have enough members to frustrate the Democratic majority, analysts said.

But if some of those extra bodies are not team players, there still could be some problems, said Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report.

However, Rothenberg noted that several candidates who lost would have bulked up a tea party caucus in the Senate, including Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, while others appear endangered as vote-counting continues, such as Joe Miller in Alaska.

“In some ways, Mitch is lucky that some of the troublemakers lost, or seem to be losing,” Rothenberg said.

The tea party-backed candidates who did win will be eager to prove to their base that they won’t be co-opted by the Beltway establishment, said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

“You can expect some dust-ups on that basis alone,” he said. “ McConnell will have to work hard to keep the tea party senators inside the tent.”

That may mean keeping close contact with Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the current chief Senate ally of the tea party, even though DeMint is not terribly popular with colleagues right now, Sabato said.

Farrier noted that the Senate’s rules give the minority, and individual lawmakers, a variety of effective avenues to stop legislation.

That means Paul could hold up legislation in order to highlight his message — as Kentucky’s current junior senator, Republican Jim Bunning, did earlier this year when he briefly stalled extended unemployment benefits to protest deficit spending.

“I don’t see a lot of go along to get along” from Paul, Farrier said.

However, Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor at the Cook Political Report, said McConnell has the upper hand in dealing with the newcomers because of his position and the way the chamber operates.

“Some of the new members who don’t know how the legislative body works might be in for a rude awakening. I would put Rand Paul at the top of that list,” Duffy said. “He might not think he needs McConnell but he needs McConnell more than McConnell needs him.”

In a conference call Wednesday, McConnell laughed off a question about Paul challenging him, saying that wouldn’t make the junior senator different than any other Senate Republican.

McConnell predicted he and Paul will have a good relationship.

“I think we’re going to have a high level of unity” in the GOP caucus, he said.

The members won’t agree on everything, McConnell said, but they share a common view that government has spent and borrowed too much the last two years and needs to cut back.

That’s clearly the message voters sent Tuesday, McConnell said.

Even though the GOP made big gains, McConnell said the election “was not an endorsement of us, it was a repudiation of what the other side has been doing.”

McConnell said one key goal is to repeal the health care reform law Congress approved this year.

There will be a vote on repeal, and if that doesn’t work, Republicans will try to wipe out specific parts, such as the mandate for people to buy insurance or pay a penalty.

However, McConnell also cited several areas where he said Republicans can work with President Barack Obama, including trade agreements and nuclear energy.

Filed Under: ElectionsFederal GovernmentMitch McConnellRand PaulUS Senate Race

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Comments

  1. Tommy Caudill says:

    So, KY elected Mitch Junior. What a bunch of smart people KY has. We try and get rid of one and end up electing two. You republicans sure know how to pick em.

  2. William says:

    Tommy,

    So why would you call Rand Paul “Mitch, Jr.”? Because he’s from the same party? That doesn’t seem like a strong enough reason. So what makes you say he’s Mitch, Jr.?

    Just curious.

  3. Tommy Caudill says:

    I called him Mitch Junior, because he will have to follow Mitch around like a little puppy dog if he wants to do anything in the Senate. He will turncoat on the tea-party so fast it will make your head spin once he gets to Washington and the corporate money starts hitting his hands. He led you all aroud by your noses saying he could balance the budget, he can’t balance a ball on his finger let alone balance the budget. He can’t do anything unless daddy Mitch lets him and that ain’t gonna happen.

  4. Tommy,
    Everything you say is the exact mirror of the DemocratCommie party. Tommy you sir are an idiot and a sore looser with a messed up view of America. You sir are a jerk off!

    And as far as backroom deals and strong arm tactic, you lefty commies have it down to an art.

    I called Dingy Harry Junior, because he will have to follow Dingy around like a little puppy dog if he wants to do anything in the Senate. He will turncoat on the normal people so fast it will make your head spin once he gets to Washington and the stimulus money given to unions and other lefty commie groups like ACORN money starts hitting his hands. He led you all around by your noses saying he could balance the budget, he can’t balance a ball on his finger let alone balance the budget. He can’t do anything unless daddy Dingy lets him and that ain’t gonna happen.

  5. Tommy Caudill says:

    My oh my, aren’t we touchy? When someone tells the truth about little Mitch they can’t stand it. Beleive me I could care less about Rand at this time because he doesn’t have a majority to get through any of his wacky ideas. Now, when it comes to 2014 and Mitch is up for re-election I will do my best to be on the ballot against him.

    May God help us until then.

    You all seem to forget who got us into this mess and are more than willing to finish us off.

  6. Tommy the Commie says:

    The mess began with Woodrow Wilson, magnified by FDR, JFK and LBJ. Then the stupid hippies got jobs and set the commie left wing rolling with all these social programs. That is what ruined this great county. This did not start 8, 10 or 20 years ago. The democrats have attempted to make the Constitution out to be old and have attempted to re-write history. You dems have been very successful at socializing USA and destroying capitilism. So go look in the mirror, democrats screwed up America.

  7. Tommy Caudill says:

    So, what you’re saying is that when FDR took the steps needed to stop the Great Depression, we should have just left it alone and finished America off, right? That’s why the American people electedd him to four terms, right? Calvin Coolidge started the mess by the same policies George W. Bush used during his eight years. It always takes a democrat to clean up the mess of a republican.

  8. Tommy the Commie says:

    YEs Tommy FDR and his actions actually took a recession and made it the great depression. The same as Barry and crew are doing right now. Govt is too big and bloated. Federal govt has no business in social security, education, EPA, Agriculture and many many other social bologna.

    Seems to me you have it backwards. Reagan had to clean up a big mess caused by Jimmy, and Bush had a big mess to deal with after BJ Clinton’s impeachment of a presidency.

    The entire democrat policy of tax, spend and taking from others and giving to others is all wrong. I mean come on what does a democrat stand for.

    At least as a Conservative Republican we can say we stand for something. Smaller govt, balance budget, life, personal responsibility and freedom from govt bureaucracy. And a strong kick butt military. We do not apologize for our actions and are PROUD of our history. We are not ashamed of the USA.

    The ONLY thing Dems have is to spread fear and use old people and blacks as pawns to work their CLoward Pevins style of socialism take over of America.

    Your liberal movement is dead and has been rejected.

  9. Tommy Caudill says:

    Liberal movement? A liberal movement would have guarnteeed everyone healthcare from the private market, not the public market, which is where I thought republicans wanted everything ran from. The Greaat Depression started October 27, 1929 and FDR didn’t take office until March 4, 1933. Where do you get that FDR started the Great Depression? The last time I looked Calvin Coolidge was president until 1929 and Hoover took over and finished what he started and drove us the rest of the way off the cliff. That’s exactly what happened in the last decade, the republicans ran us off a cliff and now they want to finish us off.

  10. Tommy the Commie says:

    Tommy,

    If I recall only 2 R Senators voted for that health care junk and not one R Representative did. It was jammed down our throats and was a 100% democrat deal. And as far as I know not one Dem even read the piece of crap. It is unpopular and we can only hope it will be repelled and at the least 100% de-funded by the House.

    Govt has no right or authority to be in the health care business.

  11. Tommy Caudill says:

    Ia anyone in your family on Medicare?

  12. Tommy Caudill says:

    Is anyone in your family on Medicare?

  13. Tommy the Commie says:

    Not really, parents carry their own private coverage. They worked and saved money their entire life so they could afford the good life once they retired, and that is what they did. Actually the 2 of them is only $800 a month for health insurance.

    With that I do not see why anybody would not have a good private plan.

  14. Tommy Caudill says:

    You’re such a liar you can’t even look yourself in the mirror. First of all until this year no one could afford healthcare at 65 let alone pay $800 a month for it. You have got to do better than that my friend if you’re gonna lie about your parents or anyone getting healthcare.

  15. Tommy the Commie says:

    My parents are not 65 yet and retired. And I am pretty sure their monthly fee is 800 for both.

  16. Tommy Caudill says:

    Are they going to take Medicare when they reach 65?

  17. Tommy Caudill says:

    The right can’t handle the truth and it kills them to be called out. Well my mother draws a measly $400 a month Social Security and my dad fought in Korea draws $800 a month and has to go to the VA for his medical care.

    Does anyone want to object to them drawing what they draw or my father using the VA system?

    My father did something most of the people on this blog would never do, put his life on the line for his country.

  18. Tommy Caudill says:

    GOP ran on repealing the healthcare bill. What happens when they dont? Will the tea party admit they are liars THEN?

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