For McConnell, decoupling taxes from spending was crucial — enabling Republicans to “concentrate exclusively on spending reductions, without having that linked to tax cuts” in coming months. “It’s a distinct advantage for us,” he says.
Whatever comes next, you can count on the 68-year-old McConnell to play a starring role. He has the potential to become a Great Compromiser, like Henry Clay, the august Kentucky legislator from two centuries ago whose desk he now occupies; a feared, sharp-elbowed partisan; or, perhaps most likely, a combination of the two. As he begins to manage his newly grown, diverse conference, which includes tea-party freshmen along with Yankee moderates, McConnell becomes an even more pivotal figure in Washington.