McConnell on Scaled-Back GOP Demands: 'Not Exactly the Sun and the Moon'

By Susan Jones | October 8, 2013 | 6:57 AM EDT

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

( - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated on Monday that Republicans have backed away from their original demand to defund Obamacare. Now it's only "delay."

"Delay and basic fairness are what Republicans are asking for at this point -- not exactly the sun and the moon," McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor.

"Democrats say it's unreasonable to ask for any changes or delays to Obamacare. And Republicans, well, we think the Obamacare rollout has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt just how reasonable a delay is. I mean, if anybody had any doubts about the need to delay this thing, those doubts should have been allayed this weekend when the administration admitted its website wasn't working and took it offline for repairs."

McConnell also noted that Republicans, not wanting a government shutdown, have passed "no fewer than eight bills" in recent days to fund "the most urgent pieces" of government.

"In other words, the House has quietly shown that the two parties aren't completely at odds in this debate -- that there is in fact some common ground here."

Over the weekend, McConnell noted, the House passed a bill that said a government shutdown doesn't affect the free exercise of religion on military bases with 184 Democrat votes. Another bill authorizing back pay for furloughed federal workers got 189 Democratic votes, while bills funding FEMA, NIH, and national parks got 23, 25 and 23, respectively.

"So let's be clear: the problem here isn't the House," McConnell said. "There's actually a fair amount of agreement among Republicans and Democrats over there that lawmakers have a duty and responsibility that rises above the politics of the moment to fund things like veterans, cancer trials, the National Guard and Reservists in every state.

"The problem is the Senate," McConnell said.

He noted that the American people have voted for divided government in the past two elections:

"The gave us a Republican House and a Democrat Senate. That means negotiation isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. And until Senate Democrat leaders accept that reality, these crises will only be harder to resolve. So I would suggest that they start thinking about how they might start playing a constructive role in this crisis, and in the challenges to come."