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The aide said McConnells style is to include his Members in the decision-making process and allow them to draw a conclusion in a time frame and manner in which they are comfortable. On the issue of rescuing Detroit, this source argued that McConnells approach has put the Conference in the best position to block poor legislation without being seen as obstructionists who are bringing down the car industry.
He generally fosters a process that allows Members to weigh in on the product theyll vote for, this senior Senate GOP aide said. He doesnt put them in a position where they feel forced to take a position before theyre ready.
McConnells style might have been viewed positively in 110th Congress. But beginning in January when the 111th gavels in, it could be a detriment, offered one former Senate Republican leadership aide.
This individual said McConnells light footprint was necessary these past two years, given that so many Republicans faced tough re-election races McConnell among them and that the GOP agenda was basically set by the Republican White House and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. Holding together a Conference of 49 Senators also required a softer touch at times.
But with the newly diminished GOP minority of 41 or 42 Senators set to convene in January, the Conference is going to require a tougher hand. In upcoming battles with an enhanced Democratic majority and the Obama administration, McConnells cautiousness could be perceived as weakness and ineffectiveness.
The dangers are twofold: Moving slowly to lay claim to a position on an issue could allow Obama and Senate Democrats to brand the GOP in a manner that damages the minority, while also giving the appearance to the public at large that Senate Republicans are rudderless and dont know what they are doing.
They will need more of an outspoken leader, the former Senate leadership aide said.