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Stakeout Media Availability With Senator Mitch Mcconnell, Senate minority Leader; Senator Jon Kyl; Senator Lamar Alexander; Senator John Cornyn; Senator John Ensign; and Senator John Thune, Following A Conference Meeting

Press Conference

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Location: Washington, DC

SEN. MCCONNELL: (In progress) -- when that person is chosen, presumably in January.

So we're excited about getting back. We will be looking to the new administration for its announcements and plans, and I think our strategy will be quite simple. We would hope that the new president will choose to govern in the center, and when he chooses to do that, I think he can probably expect a high level of cooperation from Senate Republicans.

Our advice to him would be to govern as he ran, after securing the nomination. We all want the country to move in the right direction. We congratulate him again on his election and look forward to working with him in the coming months and years.

With that, let me turn to Senator Kyl.

SEN. KYL: Thank you, Leader.

First, it was great to have my colleague John McCain back with us. He actively participated in our meeting this morning after getting a big round of applause for his efforts in leading our ticket in the last election.

I think our group, though diminished in size, is very much committed to moving forward, as the leader said, cooperating with the new administration where we can. When there are differences that are obvious and represent totally different points of view, Republicans will stand up for what we believe is right. I think we'll be unified in that effort.

I was very pleased with the atmosphere, which included the greeting of our new members, and we're going to welcome them as part of our team as well.

We're looking forward to the next two years.

SEN. ALEXANDER: We'll support our new president when he's right and oppose him and come up with a better idea when he's wrong.

We know exactly what we need to do. We don't need new principles. We don't need to hire a PR firm. We've had a failure of imagination on the Republican side. We need to turn the principles we believe in into solutions that affect Americans on everyday basis, on electric prices, on health insurance, on helping balance the family budget, keeping spending under control. We know how to do that, we will do that, and we're looking forward to it.

SEN. ENSIGN: Well, we all know we had a difficult couple of years. But what I'm excited about is this team and our conference is energized.

A couple of election cycles ago, the Democrats -- they were in the doldrums. They had suffered defeats, and they had to reevaluate what they stood for, and where they were going as a party. We're having to do the same thing.

What I am particularly energized about, though, is that we are focused. We are a big-tent party. We're going to get back to those core principles, though, that unite us in -- as a party. And I'm excited about being policy chair and being -- helping to lead our party back to its core principles.

SEN. MCCONNELL: John?

SEN. THUNE: I want to publicly thank my colleagues for their support. And I am very pleased to be a part of this leadership team, look forward to working with them on the serious challenges that confront the country. And I think the challenge before us is to present clear ideas, policy alternatives, things that I think the American people will rally behind to get the country back on track.

I -- looking forward to that opportunity and that challenge, and very much pleased to be a part of this team.

SEN. CORNYN: The right policies and the right message are very, very important, but they don't count for much unless you can win elections.

And the job frankly of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and all of our conference is to make sure that those right policies and those right messages are translated into wins at the ballot box in 2010 and beyond.

We are together. We are energized. We are ready to move forward and look forward to working with our new president where we can. But I think you will also see where the differences lie. And the American people as always will be presented with a clear choice in the next election.

SEN. MCCONNELL: I'll take a couple of questions, if there are any.

Q Is there going to be a resolution on Senator Stevens's situation in your caucus? And when?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Yeah.

The position of the conference was that that matter ought to be postponed until we knew the outcome of the election in Alaska.

Q So is that going to be resolved then later this week potentially? Or is that -- is there not going to be --

SEN. MCCONNELL: The position of the conference was that the matter ought to be taken up after we know the results of the election in Alaska.

Q (Off mike.)

What are your thoughts right now on where your caucus is on the bailout? Are they inclined at all to support a portion of what Senator Reid has proposed? Are you going to offer your own proposal? Where are you?

SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, there are different members who have different views about assistance to the automobile industry and how that might be done.

A number of our members, which includes myself, think the proposal that the administration has made, to provide -- to basically change the qualifications of the money that we have already appropriated, is a sound way to go forward.

I was told earlier today that there is some democratic support for that as well. So we'll be discussing, with Senator Reid, the best way to go forward.

Let me just add, I think, the rescue package that we passed, a little over a month ago, was designed to get the credit system in this country flowing again. And many of us supported that not believing that that would be a precedent for industry-by-industry relief; that it was essential to the entire economy that we get the credit system functioning again.

Now it's not unexpected nor surprising that various industries want to come forward. The automobile industry obviously is very important, very important to my state. But there is a way to do this. And I think the administration has laid out a good way to do it. And hopefully Senator Reid and I can discover a way forward that would give the Senate a chance to vote on that proposal.

Q Mr. Leader, did Senator Stevens address the caucus, even though you said this is the position of the caucus for now? To what degree was this discussed?

SEN. MCCONNELL: We generally don't, and I'm going to stick to that today, talk about who spoke and who didn't speak in a conference.

Let me just say again on the Stevens issue, the view of the conference was that it ought to be delayed until we knew the results of the election in Alaska.

Q (Off mike.)

Would you hold off acting until after the recount?

SEN. MCCONNELL: I don't know whether I should repeat the same thing four times or not.

Your question's about Stevens? Yeah. Well, the answer is that the conference agreed to postpone the matter until we knew the outcome of the election in Alaska.

Okay, thanks, everybody.

http://www.fnsg.com/transcript.htm?id=20081118t0429&nquery=&query=mcconnell


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