Updated: 7:44 p.m.
Senate Republican leaders said Thursday that they expect to be proactive in pushing their legislation this Congress, even as the new House GOP majority presses its own agenda and the Senate Democratic majority and White House push back.
Emerging from the annual Senate Republican issues retreat in the afternoon, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said there is much his Conference can do to drive the conversation on Capitol Hill, and the Kentucky Republican said he is looking for help from Senate Democrats who are running for re-election in conservative-leaning states.
He added that he expects little difference between House and Senate Republicans on major issues.
“We anticipate that the House of Representatives are going to pass a lot of legislation that virtually all of my Members are going to be enthusiastic about,” McConnell said at a news conference following the retreat. “I think the real question is: How many of the 23 Democrats who are up in ’12 are going to be more interested in cooperating with us in trying to advance an agenda that’s going to come out of the House of Representatives that we think is going to be largely favored by the American people?
“So we don’t start with the notion that we’re going to be on defense,” the Minority Leader added. “We start with the notion that we may well be on offense.”
Senate Republicans met at the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building for more than six hours to discuss political and legislative strategy for the 112th Congress. They were visited in the morning by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who spoke for about 30 minutes and received two rousing rounds of applause, and they were joined for lunch by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), who also delivered remarks and offered advice.
Newly installed Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) was given center stage at the news conference after brief opening statements by the Minority Leader and Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), who organized Thursday’s activities.
Ayotte said freshman Republicans are concerned with the same issues as her veteran colleagues: government spending, the national debt and job creation.
“On behalf of the 13 new Republican Senators, we are focused on the very same issues. And we heard it from voters across the country: They want smaller government, not bigger government,” she said. “And as the mother of two small children, who joined me yesterday at the swearing-in — a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old — I can tell you that, as Republicans, we are so concerned, I’m deeply concerned, about the nearly $14 trillion debt that we have right now. And, that is going to be the focus in the coming year.”
She added, “We’re looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting to work on behalf of the American people.”