Mitch McConnell, who could soon become the Senate majority leader, is a deep-dyed Republican and a determined fighter, but he also has a history of helping to broker key financial deals.
Here are five important things to know about McConnell:
McConnell and Joe Biden Solved The Fiscal Cliff: In December 2012, the nation was careening toward the fiscal cliff. It was mess of expiring tax increases and spending cuts. Congress worked through the new year, attempting to find a solution.
It was McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden who were able to work out a deal and avert a complete crisis.
The bipartisan compromise was quickly signed off by both chambers. But conservatives weren’t pleased, with many launching attacks in Kentucky against him for agreeing to what amounted to tax increases on those making more than $450,000 a year.
McConnell Helped End the Shutdown: McConnell was instrumental in striking a deal to bring the 16-day government shutdown to an end. After the standoff came to a complete impasse with the House, the Senate minority leader was tapped to bring it to a resolution.
This time, he negotiated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat, to reach a compromise.
The deal “is far less than many of us hoped for, quite frankly, but it’s far better than what some had sought,” he said at the time. “Now it’s time for Republicans to unite behind other crucial goals.”
“I am the guy that gets us out of shutdowns," McConnell told CNN earlier this year. "It's a failed policy."
McConnell and Climate Change: McConnell made helping the coal industry a central part of his re-election campaign this year. The eastern part of his state has several coal mines and drives the local economies.
That will translate to strong opposition from McConnell against any regulation of fossil fuel emissions. McConnell has described President Barack Obama’s efforts to limit emissions as job killers. When asked about addressing climate change versus protecting coal jobs in Kentucky, McConnell has said his priority is his home state.
“What I have said repeatedly is I’m not a scientist, but what I can tell you is, even if you thought that was important -- and there are some scientists who do and some scientists who don’t -- but even if you thought that was important, the United States doing this by itself is going to have zero impact,” the Kentucky Republican said. “It is not a yes or no question. I am not a scientist,” McConnell said when pressed. “My job is to try and protect jobs in Kentucky now, not speculate about science in the future.”
McConnell and Foreign Policy: McConnell has largely allowed Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham to take the lead on foreign policy issues.
But that hasn’t always been the case. McConnell was once considered a strong supporter of foreign aid. When he was first elected he pushed for South Africa to abolish apartheid and supported funding for the International Monetary Fund. Now, McConnell supports further engagement in the Middle East and helping to fight ISIS.
“At some point, somebody is going to have to take this back on the ground,” McConnell said about the fight in Iraq. “Had we aided the Syrian rebels three years ago, I don't know that they would have won, but they might have, and so we're in a heck of a tough spot now.”
McConnell had polio as a child: Born in Sheffield, Alabama, in 1942, McConnell contracted polio when he was 2 years old. Marking the 50th anniversary of the vaccine for polio, which wasn’t available when he was a child, McConnell talked emotionally about being unable to walk until he was 5 years old. While his father served in World War II, young Mitch and his mother lived with family.
His mother spent two years teaching him how to walk.
“This example of incredible discipline that she was teaching me during this period, I always felt had an impact on the rest of my life,” he said.