Press coverage gives McConnell and Biden credit for their 11th-hour deal ... again

01/01/2013 11:19 PM

It’s not the first time that the Senate Minority Leader and his former colleague-turned vice president have rolled up their sleeves in the 11th hour to get a deal done, as the national press has been pointing out.

Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden are getting credit for hashing out the final deal that keeps taxes from going up on most Americans — individuals making less than $400,000 and couples making less than $450,000. Striking the deal was reminiscent of how the two forged a compromise two years ago — the last time the Bush-era tax cuts were set to expire. In fact, the British newspaper The Independent ran a headline declaring, “It’s Biden and McConnell to the Rescue Again.”

The New York Times called the resulting proposal the McConnell-Biden Plan.

That, of course, was a major undercurrent as the Republican-led House prepared to vote on the measure Tuesday night as another Times article pointed out:

Adding to the pressure on the House, the fiscal agreement was reached by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, and had deep Republican support in the Senate, isolating the House Republicans in their opposition. Some of the Senate Republicans who backed the bill are staunch conservatives with deep credibility among House Republicans.

The Atlantic, meanwhile, asked rhetorically if Biden “Is the Most Influential Vice President in History?” in one of its headlines. And it gave a nod to McConnell as a key supporting player in that after he and Biden stepped in after negotiations between the two “big guys” — President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner — broke down.

The Washington Post’s The Fix called McConnell one of the big winners out of the fiscal cliff deal right under Vice President Joe Biden.

A separate Post article focused on how the Biden-McConnell working relationship between these two “second fiddles” was once again the lynchpin to getting a deal done. An excerpt:

They are not the most powerful men in Washington: Each, in his own way, is a second fiddle. Joseph R. Biden Jr. is vice president. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is the Senate minority leader, in charge of only the senators who are not in charge. But these two men — rivals, colleagues and wary friends for almost 28 years — were the ones who finally struck a deal to end the “fiscal cliff” crisis, which the Senate passed Tuesday morning.

Of course, not everyone inside the beltway was impressed — especially on the conservative side. Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News that the deal was “a rout” for Democrats and a surrender by Republicans.

In an analysis piece, Politico’s Reid J. Epstein explained why McConnell signed off on a deal that didn’t include massive spending cuts and a permanent end to the estate tax — because Democrats had all the leverage. But, he wrote, McConnell got Republicans something from the deal:

By delaying the sequester cuts for two months, McConnell’s forced them to coincide with the debt ceiling fight. By then, the president won’t have expiring tax cuts or the end-of-the-year media attention to hold over Republicans, and without that — especially after striking a deal and accepting the president’s position on taxes — McConnell will be able to control the coming conversation on spending cuts and overhauling entitlements. Obama got his New Year’s victory, goes the thinking, but now McConnell will be in charge for the rest of 2013.

And McConnell, himself, made a similar statement on the Senate floor.

“I know I can speak for my entire conference when I say we don’t think taxes should be going up on anyone, but we all knew that if we did nothing they’d be going up on everyone today. We weren’t going to let that happen,” he said early Tuesday — less than two hours into the new year. “Each of us could spend the rest of the week discussing what a perfect solution would have looked like, but the end result would have been the largest tax increase in American history.

Worth noting: Biden and McConnell failed in persuading a senator from his home state and political party to vote for the plan. Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware and Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul were among the eight senators to vote against it early Tuesday.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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