If Obama wants a deal, he should be talking with McConnell.

Even though Speaker John Boehner should be the most powerful Republican in Washington, as we have seen, it is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who ends up making the deals. McConnell is not only more skilled at getting agreements, but he can more successfully whip his caucus behind any decision he makes. So when McConnell says he will do something, it often ends up being what the entire Republican Party will eventually agree to. From McConnell’s office:

Now that the House and Senate have acted in a bipartisan way to prevent tax increases on 99 percent of the American people, Democrats now have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to join Republicans in a serious effort to reduce Washington’s out-of-control spending. That’s a debate the American people want. It’s the debate we’ll have next. And it’s a debate Republicans are ready for. Despite the President’s call for more and more Americans to send even more of their paychecks to Washington, the federal government will still have another trillion-dollar deficit this year. But in the upcoming months, we will have the opportunity to put our country back on sound financial footing—and there’s no excuse not to seize it. The President claims to want a balanced approach to solve our problems. And now that he has the tax rates he wants, his calls for ‘balance’ mean he must join us in our efforts to achieve meaningful spending and government reform. We have an immediate opportunity to act: the debt ceiling. Washington’s credit card has reached its limit again, and the Senate majority must act on legislation early in February—rather than waiting until the last minute, abdicating responsibility and hoping someone else will step in once again to craft a last-minute solution for them. Once the Senate passes bipartisan legislation, we can conference with the House on a solution. But this time the entire Senate must have an opportunity to act.

(emphasis mine)

McConnell is doing two important things here. First, he is defining what a “balanced approach” means. According to McConnell a balanced approach is all spending cuts this time because Obama just got his tax increase.

More importantly, McConnell is effectively saying he is the person the White House should be negotiating with. Past efforts by Obama to reach a deal with just Speaker Boehner have all ended in disaster. If Obama wants a deal, he should be talking with McConnell. As we saw with this last negotiation, any deal the Senate reaches can eventually be forced on the House.

Photo by Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons license