Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned from the Senate floor Wednesday that an executive action on immigration from President Barack Obama would undermine the trust Obama needs to build with the new Republican Congress.
"Working together requires trust," said McConnell, who will become the new majority leader in the next Congress. "I think President Obama has the duty to help build the trust we all need to move forward together, not to double-down on old ways of doing business."
"That's why I think moving forward with the unilateral action on immigration he's planned would be a big mistake," he said.
Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed a willingness to cooperate in light of the midterm elections, which gave Republicans big wins in the House and Senate, as well as governor's seats across the country. But Obama's plan to move on his own to create legal status for millions of illegal immigrants by December is shaping up as the first test of whether cooperation is possible.
McConnell and other Republicans have said action by Obama would poison the well and ruin any chance of cooperation. McConnell said on the floor that developing a cooperative tone will depend "largely on the administration's willingness to respect the message sent last Tuesday."
He said a decision by Obama to ignore the big GOP victory and move ahead on immigration would be an error. "Let's listen to the American people," he said.
McConnell indicated that he prefers to only work on the must-do bills in the lame duck Congress this year. That means a government spending bill, legislation to extend expiring tax provisions, providing authority for military action related to Syria, and boosting funding to fight Ebola.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who will no longer hold that post next year, spoke for just a few minutes at the start of the Senate's day and said he's ready to compromise with Republicans.
"I congratulate the Republican leader who will soon become the new majority leader," Reid said. "I'm ready… to work with him in good faith to make this institution function again for the American people."
But Reid also put in a dig at Republicans, who he has blamed for the Senate's inability for work for the last several years. "I saw firsthand how a strategy of obstruction was debilitating to our system, and I have no desire to engage in that manner," he said.