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Chuck Kennedy / Axios

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Axios' Mike Allen that he "would not expect to see" welfare reform on the agenda in 2018.

Why this matters: The Treasury admitted last week that the tax bill only pays for itself if welfare reform is also done. If McConnell doesn't want to do welfare reform in the upper chamber — a politically risky endeavor, to say the least — it's not happening, no matter how badly Speaker Paul Ryan, who has said he'd like to use reconciliation to take these on in 2018, wants it.

Other highlights from the Axios event:

  • Fixing the tax bill: McConnell didn't dispute that there may need to be some kind of fix to the tax bill, saying that it's normal to need one on legislation this size. "I wouldn't be surprised" if it needs a small fix, "but I think the core of the bill is intact."
  • What's next: "We have to have Democratic involvement. So things like infrastructure...to do something in that area we're going to have to have Democratic participation."
  • On 2018: "If I were running the campaign…I'd have that single woman saying, Sen. [Joe] Manchin, maybe $1,300 isn't much to you, but it is to me... We're prepared to make this argument to the American people, this was a significant middle class tax cut, but also it was important to get the country growing again."
  • On Steve Bannon: McConnell said he oppose candidates "who have no chance to win," like those floated by Steve Bannon. When pressed by Mike Allen, McConnell said he had "nothing to say" and "no observations" about Bannon. McConnell added that in order to make a difference in an election, "you have to run a candidate who can win." He said that Republicans will win out over outside forces and candidates by opposing them as they did 2014 and 2016.

Go deeper

Senate retirements could attract GOP troublemakers

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Roy Blunt's retirement highlights the twin challenge facing Senate Republicans: finding good replacement candidates and avoiding a pathway for potential troublemakers to join their ranks.

Why it matters: While the midterm elections are supposed to be a boon to the party out of power, the recent run of retirements — which may not be over — is upending that assumption for the GOP in 2022.

Congressional diversity growing - slowly

Data: Brookings Institution and Pew Research Center; Note: No data on Native Americans in Congress before the 107th Congress; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The number of non-white senators and House members in the 535-seat Congress has been growing steadily in the past several decades — but representation largely lags behind the overall U.S. population.

Why it matters: Non-whites find it harder to break into the power system because of structural barriers such as the need to quit a job to campaign full time for office, as Axios reported in its latest Hard Truths Deep Dive.

Staff for retiring Senate Republicans a K Street prize

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The retirements of high-profile Senate Republicans mean a lot of experienced staffers will soon be seeking new jobs, and Washington lobbying and public affairs firms are eyeing a potential glut of top-notch talent.

Why it matters: Roy Blunt is the fifth Republican dealmaker in the Senate to announce his retirement next year. Staffers left behind who can navigate the upper chamber of Congress will be gold for the city’s influence industry.