But GOP operatives who have followed Alexander’s career said it appears as though some Democrats might be confusing the Senator’s decision to free himself from leadership with the notion that he also has freed himself from his governing record as a loyal and mainstream conservative. In 2010, Alexander voted with his party 87 percent of the time and received an 80 percent rating from the American Conservative Union.
“I haven’t changed my stripes at all,” Alexander said flatly during his interview with Roll Call. “But I know what it is to get results, and that’s what I’m interested in doing.”
He said he would not attend GOP leadership meetings as a part of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (Ky.) extended kitchen cabinet of advisers.
But Republican operatives expect that Alexander may be helpful to McConnell on the outside, at times using his independent voice to communicate leadership’s position on an issue. In fact, GOP sources noted, that’s what Tennessee’s senior Senator did last week when he delivered that Senate floor speech about recess appointments that he had worked on during the plane ride from Nashville.
Alexander and McConnell have been friends for 40 years — since both were GOP Senate staffers — and the Minority Leader has often sought Alexander’s advice. One former Senate Republican leadership aide said Alexander could fill the role previously occupied by Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who left the chamber last year. Alexander did not dispute expectations that he might prove valuable to McConnell going forward, emphasizing that “most of the time, Sen. McConnell and I are going to have the same view on things.”
“He can be used as proxy to make phone calls for McConnell or to communicate a message in the press that’s helpful. He could be the new Bennett,” the former Senate GOP leadership aide said.
As Alexander attempts to leverage his deep relationships on both sides of the aisle to return a bit of comity to the Senate, he has not lost sight of politics completely.
Alexander said Democrats are making a mistake in their decision not to bring a formal budget resolution to the floor. He added that if Republicans capture the majority in November, he believes his Conference should provide vigorous oversight of government spending, which he said the GOP failed to do the last time it ran the chamber.
“To not have a budget when the country’s going broke? I think that’s really pretty dumb politics,” he said, joking: “I don’t want to give them too much political advice now that I’m out of political messaging.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.