For the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency, Mitch McConnell never got a phone call from the White House. Instead, he sat in his office on the second floor of the Capitol and plotted Obama’s political demise. Now, ask the Senate Republican leader when he last spoke to Vice President Joe Biden, and he lets out a laugh, his golden presidential-seal cuff links a gift from George W. Bush flashing as his hands go to his face. “Today,” he says.
After a few months on the sidelines of the endless budget battles, McConnell is back at the table. A White House that has long ignored him knows that any grand bargain on the budget and the debt limit won’t pass without his O.K. McConnell knows that too, and he has stepped out in recent weeks to argue that his renewed support in the Biden-run debt talks makes all things possible. “Divided government is the only government that can do transformational, difficult things,” he says in an interview. And what about the defeat of Obama, something he named as his top priority earlier this year? “That’s next year,” he says. “The question this year is, What are we going to do for the country?”