The Senate Minority Leader gave the opening salvo at the conservative lawyers' convention this morning after he and House Speaker-elect John Boehner refused to meet with the President, citing scheduling conflicts. During the speech, McConnell communicated two main messages: he understands that Republicans have a long way to go before they can earn back the trust of the people who voted for them, and that under his leadership, Republicans will be committed to repealing the health care bill.
The growth of the federal government, of the state, is out of control. Voters want us to try to get on the back on the road of limited government and Constitutional limits, but Republicans still need to do some work to regain their trust.
...our first goal is to reverse the damage that's been done. In that way, we are serious about repealing and replacing the health care bill. We will make the case for repeal through vigorous oversight and full repeal on this terrible bill even as we work to eliminate its worst parts. And we will continue to fight it in the courts.
McConnell emphasized that there were serious roadblocks ahead: Republicans only control the House, so passing legislation will not be easy. Most importantly, the President has the veto pen, so there's always a threat that he will axe Republican initiatives if they do get through Congress. Democrats still don't acknowledge their problem, said McConnell, so they're unlikely to work with Republicans on important issues. Overall, however, McConnell's mood was optimistic.
A lot has changed since I was here two years ago in this very month. Two years ago the the mainstream media was asking if the Republican party would even exist, and Democrats were talking about their permanent majority. Today, many are asking if the mainstream media will be around by the next election.
McConnell said that it was a "rather happy time for my side," after two "grim" elections in '06 and '08, and cited several statistics to prove it: the 2010 elections were the biggest pickup of house seats in a mid term by any party since 1938, and the biggest pickup of House seats ever Republicans for the first-term mid-term in history. McConnell received a standing ovation from Federalist Society members, who will be holding their convention in Washington for the next three days.
Sen. Mitch McConnell was too busy to meet with President Obama today, but he wasn't too busy to speak to the Federalist Society.