US & Canada

Mitch McConnell: DC insider with a mission

Mitch McConnell Image copyright AP
Image caption Mitch McConnell will likely preside over a faction of at least 52 senators

With the balance of power shifting to the Republican side, Senator Mitch McConnell is poised to be the next US Senate majority leader.

The position would give him the ability to influence legislative and budget priorities set forth by the US Congress.

In an age when many politicians take great pride in coming from outside the Washington establishment, Mr McConnell is a career politician and a creature of DC.

The Kentucky senator has been re-elected to serve his sixth term - a position he has held since 1984. Prior to that, he worked in Washington as an aide to a Kentucky congressman and a deputy attorney-general to President Gerald Ford.

Mr McConnell has never lost an election, and has earned a reputation as a shrewd campaigner and skilled politician - though some may not find him a particularly charismatic one. Much of his success comes from his ability to adapt and make deals behind the scenes.

In 2010, he publicly declared his goal of making President Barack Obama a one-term president.

He is a staunch critic of the Affordable Care Act, Mr Obama's signature legislation, which overhauled the US healthcare system. Still, Mr McConnell measured his words while campaigning in Kentucky, where many voters have received insurance due to the law.

Policy areas

Despite his hard-nosed tactics, he also knows how to reach across the aisle for compromise. It was McConnell who worked with Vice-President Joe Biden to avoid the "fiscal cliff" in 2012, which would have lead to increased taxes and spending cuts. His meetings with Democratic leaders helped end the government shutdown of 2013.

Under the banner of free speech, he has fought against laws to limit spending in political campaigns and against initiatives to change the American constitution to formally ban the desecration of the American flag.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mitch McConnell and his wife were delighted as the scale of Republican victory became apparent

Kentucky is a state rich with coal and Mr McConnell actively opposes climate change regulations that he sees as a threat to the local economy.

In 2006, Mr McConnell was elected to lead the caucus of Republican senators. For the first time since his tenure as leader, Republicans will have a Senate majority.

It has often been said that Mr McConnell's dream is to be majority leader and his dream looks set to become reality if, as expected, his fellow senators select him for the job.

In that role and with the boost of Republicans control over both the House of Representatives and the Senate, Mr McConnell - again if and when elected - will be in a powerful position from which to negotiate with the White House.

Mr McConnell's challenge will then be balancing the demands of his party's growing right flank - which will want to push through Republican policy initiatives by any means necessary - with his desire to preserve the Senate's somewhat damaged reputation as the more deliberate, mature wing of the Congress, one that can break through Washington gridlock and achieve compromise.

A childhood survivor of polio, Mr McConnell is married to Elaine Chao, the former secretary of labour under President George W Bush.