Amid calls for compromise, McConnell says it's up to Obama


by Joe Arnold

Posted on November 20, 2012 at 12:18 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 20 at 12:22 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Kentucky voters are calling for compromise in Washington as the nation nears the "fiscal cliff," yet cannot agree on which side needs to acquiesce.

"Somebody needs to start compromising or nothing's going to change in this country," said Adam Biebelhauser, "One or the other.  I don't care which side starts it."

While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) remains steadfast in his opposition to Obama administration tax increase proposals, he is also calling for cooperation.
"Look, the people I talk to across Kentucky, they don't want any more political fights," McConnell said in a senate speech last week.  "They would like to see us get somewhere."

But that doesn't mean McConnell is about to let Obama enjoy a re-election honeymoon.

In his first news conference after the Nov. 6 election, President Barack Obama said it would be a "rude shock" to the American people if Republicans don't cooperate on his budget agenda.

McConnell had famously aimed to make Obama a one-term president if Obama did not change his approach and meet Republicans halfway on budget matters.  Though Kentucky's senior senator cannot change the outcome of the election, he remains steadfast in both his opposition to Obama's agenda and his stated willingness to work with Obama if the president moves to the center.

"Let's just put the campaign behind us and get the job done," McConnell said.

As "fiscal cliff" negotiations continue, McConnell says Obama's opening offer of raising taxes by $1.6 trillion isn't serious.

"It amounts to about 20 cents in cuts for every new dollar in tax hikes - in other words, no cuts at all. It's a joke," he said.

"I think most Americans support some tax increases, especially for wealthier people," said Natalie Nerland of Louisville.  "And I think they know that and they are just trying to gain a political advantage by being so stubborn about it."

After Mitt Romney lost to Obama despite economic variables that indicated a tough road for re-election, some Republicans have suggested it's time for a new approach or at least a new tone.  Yet, McConnell supporters appreciate his resolve.
"I believe the Senator should absolutely stick to his guns," said Mark Beard, "Because he's fought long and hard in his position and he should continue that fight."

"Obviously, (the election) didn't give Obama the mandate, thankfully," Beard continued.  "We had seats taken in the House as Republicans that we needed.  I just feel like he needs to finally start realizing that nobody is going to bow down."

McConnell says neither Obama or Republicans are willing to sacrifice their principles, so Obama needs to become the compromiser and lead his party in the model of Ronald Reagan working with a Democratic House Speaker and Bill Clinton working with Republican House leadership.

"We look forward to making this divided government productive for the American people," McConnell said.

"I think (Obama) should be like a football coach," suggested Clement Gray of Louisville.  "He gets three years to get his recruits in. I think the president ought to have a chance to get his in."

"I think (Congress) should be willing to at least give him a chance to try to straighten out what was already there," Gray continued.

"I think there's a huge amount of frustration over the gridlock in Congress," said Jefferson Community & Technical College President Tony Newberry, "and that's creating anxieties and uncertainty in the country that actually is hurting economic development as we move forward."

"We're calling on him to lead, to take the initiative," McConnell said.  "Propose a plan that's actually designed to succeed. And if he does, I'm confident he'll find he has more Republican friends over here than he thought."

McConnell and Obama are of one mind on one issue, democracy efforts in Burma.  A foreign policy priority of McConnell for years, he is commending Obama's visit to the Southeast Asian country.