In a statement that is a bit surprising given his vulnerable position in Kentucky GOP circles, Mitch McConnell told The Hill today that there would not be a future government shutdown–at least one aimed at messing with Obamacare:

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell says he will not allow another government shutdown as part of a strategy to repeal ObamaCare.

McConnell (Ky.) told The Hill in an interview Thursday afternoon that his party learned a painful political lesson over the past 16 days, as its approval rating dropped while the government was shuttered.

He said there’s no reason to go through the political wringer again in January, when the stopgap Congress passed late Wednesday expires.

“One of my favorite old Kentucky sayings is there’s no education in the second kick of a mule. The first kick of a mule was when we shut the government down in the mid 1990s and the second kick was over the last 16 days,” he said. “There is no education in the second kick of a mule. There will not be a government shutdown.

“I think we have fully now acquainted our new members with what a losing strategy that is,” he added.

Without seeing the full interview, there’s no way to know if McConnell was asked if he might provoke or support or go along with a government shutdown over budget disagreements in January. I’m guessing his line will be that Republicans are relatively pleased with the spending limits set in the 2011 debt-limit agreement, and thus by definition any intractable disagreement leading to a shutdown must be blamed on Democrats seeking an end to sequestration.

But in other quotes, McConnell is very clear that he should get credit for making the best of a bad situation in striking the final deal given miscues by the House and the Tea Folk:

McConnell said the deal he inked with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) Wednesday to open the government and raise the ceiling was the best that could be achieved given the GOP’s weak political position.

He compared it to a punt in football, giving Republicans a chance to resume the battle from a better position next year.

“By the time I came in yesterday it was clear to me that it was up to me to get us out of the government shutdown and make sure we didn’t default,” he said of his decision to take over the negotiations, when it became apparent the House could not pass legislation that could also pass the Senate.

I suspect McConnell’s right-wing opponents favor a kind of football where you should always go for it on fourth down.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.