Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is poised to play a bigger role in negotiations to reform entitlement programs in the wake of the tax deal he helped forge last week.
Lawmakers see the passage of a bill to extend most of the Bush-era income tax rates and settle the question of estate, capital gains and dividend tax rates as a template for how to move the next installment of deficit reduction.
That would mean moving bipartisan legislation first in the Senate and put McConnell, the senior senator from Kentucky, in the driver's seat.
"I think he'll play a major role. I think he and Vice President Biden have a good working relationship, and it appears to be one of the few good working relationships that the administration has with members of Congress on the Republican side of the aisle," said former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), who was one of McConnell's most trusted advisers.
But Gregg said McConnell "is not going to move forward without Boehner participating either directly or indirectly."
Senior Republican aides say McConnell is not looking to supplant Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in deficit-reduction talks but he will play whatever role is necessary to achieve progress.
"He will try to be as productive as he can all the way through," said a senior GOP aide. "If his role takes a different tack, given the circumstances, he's going to do his job. He's not going to walk away."
That is a change from the summer of 2011 and the fall of 2012, when Boehner negotiated one on one with Obama to impose reforms to Medicare and Social Security, while McConnell was kept in the loop but took a backseat to the House leader.
McConnell was kept mostly on the sidelines in the run-up to the fiscal cliff on Dec. 31, until talks between Obama and Boehner fizzled. McConnell impressed colleagues on both sides of the aisle when he stepped in to the discussions shortly after Christmas and hammered out a deal with Biden only a few days later.
McConnell will have to play a bigger role earlier in this year's deficit-reduction talks; Boehner has said he is finished talking one on one with the president.
A House GOP leadership aide said Boehner wants to avoid secretive leadership talks and move spending reforms through the committees instead. "The goal is through regular order. Which is how the House has always acted -- it is inaction from the Democrat leadership in the Senate and the White House that has pushed America up to the deadline again and again," said Michael Steel, Boehner's spokesman.
McConnell supports Boehner's call for the next round of deficit reduction to move through regular order and has pressed Democrat leaders to cooperate...
But given the short amount of time until the next deadline and that the Senate is not scheduled to resume its regular session until Jan. 22, political experts say the next deal will likely be negotiated again at the leadership level.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 01/09/2013
Editor's Note: Well, that instills confidence that fiscal responsibility will be championed...NOT? Putting the guy in charge of entitlement negotiations who help craft the disastrous fiscal cliff Republican failure? How is that even intelligent?..And, again, why is anyone negotiating the raising of revenue with the Executive Branch??? (read here and here).
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