Kentucky’s two Republican senators — Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell — were caught on a hot mic on Wednesday night privately talking strategy about the government shutdown.
The video, posted on YouTube, shows Paul, the state’s junior senator, approaching McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, before McConnell was about to go on television from the Capitol. McConnell had left a meeting at the White House with President Obama and congressional leadership earlier in the evening.
Paul argued to McConnell that Republicans should keep stressing that they are willing to compromise, unlike Democrats. “We’re going to win this, I think,” Paul said.
Here’s a transcript of the conversation:
Paul: You got a second?
McConnell: I’m all wired up here.
Paul: I just did CNN, and I just go over and over again, ‘We’re willing to compromise. We’re willing to negotiate.’ I don’t think [the Democrats have] poll tested, ‘we won’t negotiate.’ I think it’s awful for them to say that over and over again.
McConnell: Yeah, I do too. And I just came from a two-hour meeting with him. And that was basically the same view privately as it was publicly.
Paul: I think if we keep saying, ‘We wanted to defund it. We fought for that, but now we’re willing to compromise on this.’ I think … I know we don’t want to be here, but we’re going to win this, I think.
The exchange is significant for several reasons: first, it shows that Republicans think they still have momentum in the government shutdown fight. Politically, it’s also significant in showing how close these two Republicans representing different parts of the party have become.