McConnell to Reid: Open Debate... or Else

Roll Call reports on a letter to Harry Reid put together by Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and signed by all Republican Senators:

A feisty Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned Friday that while he looks forward to working with President-elect Barack Obama in the coming months, Republicans will continue to demand that they be given the ability to amend legislation or will filibuster bills as they move through the Senate.

McConnell released a letter signed by the entire GOP Conference to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) calling on him to use a more open process for advancing legislation in the 111th, a clear warning to Reid that Republicans will be looking to stand together over the next two years.

“The 42 Republican Senators represent 157 million Americans. Their voices are entitled to be heard, and the way to be heard in the Senate is an open amendment process,” a clearly rejuvenated McConnell told reporters.

Referring to Reid’s use of procedural tactics to curtail Republican amendments, McConnell told reporters that “we’re going to try and get that genie back in the bottle.”

McConnell also called Reid’s actions during the recent auto bailout debate “bizarre,” and he said Democrats seemed to bounce from one idea to the next before simply giving up until “Dec. 8, maybe.”

McConnell seemed more energetic than at almost any time since he became the Senate Minority Leader in early 2007. Republicans attributed the change in demeanor to the fact that McConnell has largely been freed of having to toe the political line for the extremely unpopular Bush White House, as well as having survived a unexpectedly tough re-election campaign in November.

In fact, McConnell referenced the campaign when discussing his relationship with Reid.

McConnell, quoting Winston Churchill, said that “the most exhilarating feeling is to be shot at and missed. Well, they shot at me and they missed,” he said.

McConnell sounds as if he recognizes pretty clearly that the Republicans in the Senate remain the most significant obstacle toward socialization of health care, carmaking, and a wide swath of the economy. It’s an encouraging sign that he has the entire Republican conference behind him — at least at this early stage.

Holding the votes of the moderates in the Senate Republican conference on tough issues will be one of the primary measures of his effectiveness in the next 2-4 years; this shot across Reid’s bow suggests he gets that. And McConnell’s personal comments about his re-election run make it pretty obvious that Reid didn’t do anything to help himself with Senate Republicans when he involved himself in the Democrat effort to defeat McConnell.

Payback is… not likely to be pretty.