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November 21, 2014

Posts in "Mitch McConnell"

November 18, 2014

McConnell Cites ISIS in Opposition to Leahy Surveillance Bill

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McConnell opposes efforts to roll back NSA data gathering. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., came out against a surveillance bill sponsored by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., citing concerns that it could hurt the nation’s ability to combat terrorists like Islamic State.

“Many of these fighters are familiar with America’s intelligence capabilities and many are savvy with communications: these are terrorists who know how to use encryption and they know how to change devices frequently,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “That’s part of the reason why I’m so strongly opposed to the legislation.”

McConnell is set to become majority leader in the next Congress and his comments will likely make it more difficult for the bill to advance. The Senate is expected to vote on cloture on whether to take up the bill Tuesday evening and 60 votes are needed to move ahead.

McConnell added that he believes the bill would curtail the intelligence community’s surveillance powers and that would “end one of our nation’s critical capabilities to gather significant intelligence on terrorist threats.”

“This is the worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our backs,” McConnell said. Full story

November 13, 2014

White House Praises McConnell on Myanmar

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Suu Kyi received a Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in the Capitol in September 2012. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The man elected by his conference to be the next Senate majority leader actually won praise from the White House earlier in the day in Myanmar for his longstanding support of pro-democracy interests in that country.

The political situation in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, has been a priority for more than 20 years for the Kentucky Republican, who is set to become the majority leader when the GOP takes over in January.

“I will take the opportunity, since we are back on Burma, and we were talking about Sen. [Mitch] McConnell earlier, to note that this is an issue where we’ve had important bipartisan interest in the Burma policy for many years. And the sanctions regime that has been put in place was the work of bipartisanship. And as we’ve relaxed sanctions, we’ve consulted closely with Congress,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama in the capital city of Naypyidaw.

“Sen. McConnell has been a champion of democracy here in Burma. This is an area where I think we certainly believe he’s shown leadership. And he has, of course, a close relationship to Aung San Suu Kyi, as well, and follows events here in the country,” Rhodes said. “So I did want to note that this is an area where we very much welcome the bipartisan interest, including from the next Senate majority leader.”

Senate observers know McConnell’s interest in Myanmar well. Reporters at the University of Louisville for McConnell’s post-election news conference were invited to tour an exhibit at the McConnell Center about the Republican senator and his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao. Among the museum’s most prized possessions is a handwritten letter to McConnell from Burmese political leader and Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, who spent many years under house arrest and faced other forms of retribution from the long-ruling junta.

Obama is scheduled to hold a meeting with Suu Kyi Friday in Myanmar. He is in the country for the East Asia summit, and ahead of the trip, Obama answered questions from The Irrawaddy, a publication that covers Myanmar.

“Burma is still at the beginning of a long and hard journey of renewal and reconciliation. On the one hand, since my last visit there has been some progress, including economic reforms and welcomed political steps, including the release of additional political prisoners, a process of constitutional reform, and ceasefire agreements toward ending the many conflicts that have plagued your country,” Obama said. “On the other hand, progress has not come as fast as many had hoped when the transition began four years ago. In some areas there has been a slowdown in reforms, and even some steps backward.”

“One of the main messages that I’ll deliver on this visit is that the government of Myanmar has a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all people in the country, and that the fundamental human rights and freedoms of all people should be respected. That’s the only way reforms can stay on track. That’s the only way that this country is going to realize greater prosperity and its rightful place in the region and the world. That would be a success, above all, for the people of Myanmar, and that would be good for the United States and the world,” Obama added.

McConnell was the longtime author of sanctions legislation against the repressive military regime, working frequently with California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the effort. In a policy speech about Myanmar in July, McConnell expressed concern about the possibility that Suu Kyi could be blocked from the political process and said that while the country has taken a marked turn in the direction of democracy, ”to many Burma of late appears stalled amidst a score of pressing challenges.”

“The Burmese Government should understand that the United States, and the Senate specifically, will watch very closely at how Burmese authorities conduct the 2015 parliamentary elections as a critical marker of the sincerity and the sustainability of democratic reform in Burma,” McConnell said on the Senate floor in July. With McConnell becoming the majority leader, that’s only likely to become more true.

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Mitch McConnell Unanimously Elected Majority Leader by GOP (Updated) (Video)

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Mitch McConnell (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 6:10 pm. | Senate Republicans have unanimously elected Mitch McConnell to be majority leader.

There was little drama heading into the vote, as no one had emerged to challenge the Kentucky Republican after the party’s triumph in last week’s midterm elections.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire nominated McConnell, according to a GOP source inside the room, and Sen.-elect Tom Cotton of Arkansas gave a seconding speech. He won a voice vote without opposition and was treated to a standing ovation.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas was likewise selected, by voice vote without contention, as the party’s whip. He was nominated by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania and seconded by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Full story

November 7, 2014

Could Obama-McConnell Liquor Choice Invite Look at Bourbon Laws?

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Could bourbon laws get another look after an Obama-McConnell summit? (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

There was no sign of brown liquor President Barack Obama’s Friday lunch meeting with bipartisan political leaders, but the bourbon industry is using renewed attention to press its own lobbying interests.

At the top of that list is the issue of the tax treatment of the whiskey that’s aging in barrels in warehouses.

By law, bourbon must age for at least two years, and distillers tend to age the brown spirit far longer than that. But the way inventory rules work in the tax code, costs can’t be deducted along the way. Legislation already introduced by Mitch McConnell and his fellow Kentucky Republican, Rep. Andy Barr, proposes a change so the aging process would not be considered part of the production period. Every single Kentucky lawmaker, including Sen. Rand Paul, is on board.

With tax reform a possible area of compromise in the coming months, Obama’s suggestion he ”would enjoy having some Kentucky bourbon with Mitch McConnell” might be well-timed for bourbon moneymakers.

Full story

November 6, 2014

Mitch McConnell’s Republicans Face Governing Test

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The next Senate majority leader is vowing a far more open chamber next year — one that works longer and doesn’t avoid tough votes. But it won’t be easy.

The test for Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will be managing his party’s deep splits — it includes both Susan Collins of Maine and Ted Cruz of Texas, after all. He’ll have to navigate competing agendas, with Cruz and as many as three other senators expected to launch bids for the White House and likely pulling the party to the right, even as Democrats look to score points on McConnell’s sizable crop of vulnerable Republicans up in blue states in 2016.

But while some Republicans are wary of facing a gauntlet of votes, McConnell is making it known that the Senate won’t be the locked-down, do-little chamber it has become. Full story

November 5, 2014

After Catching a Wave, Senate Republicans Look to Legislate

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Moran, right, with Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on the campaign trail. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Having emerged from an Election Day that many Republicans only dreamed of, the Senate Republicans’ campaign chairman was already looking forward to a Senate starting to function again.

Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., told a home state radio station that frustration with the lack of legislative activity contributed to his seeking the campaign job in the first place.

“This place has been run, for the four years I’ve been in the United States Senate, with the goal of doing nothing,” the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said on KNSS. “Boy, this place better change. It’s why I was willing to chair the Senate campaign committee, is to get us in a position in which Sen. Reid was not the leader with the plan to do nothing, and I intend as a member of the United States Senate — not as a Republican senator but as a Kansan, as an American — to do everything I can to see that we work to accomplish things.” Full story

November 3, 2014

McConnell Eyes the Prize as Grimes Hopes for Grand Upset (Updated)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 8:09 a.m., Nov. 4 | LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Standing in front of the Team Mitch bus in an airport hangar, former Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao proclaimed “I’m the proud wife of the next majority leader of the United States Senate.”

Three decades into his Senate career, Chao’s husband, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is poised on the verge of running the chamber, riding a wave of opposition to President Barack Obama.

“We could have, for the second time in our history, the majority leader of the Senate setting the agenda for America and taking us in a new direction,” he told supporters gathered in the hangar at Bowman Field just before boarding a small plane for a fly around of the commonwealth with Sen. Rand Paul.

His backers certainly aren’t taking anything for granted as Kentucky’s airwaves remain flooded with ads, but the Republican leader’s smile is broad, the pollsters and pundits are predicting victory and he’s talking about how he would govern.

RollCall On the Road Logo150x150 McConnell Eyes the Prize as Grimes Hopes for Grand Upset (Updated)“I’m certainly hopeful,” McConnell told a group of reporters Sunday of the prospects of gaining the net of six seats needed to flip the chamber. “I think we need to set a new agenda and go in a different direction. A number of you work in Washington, you know the Senate doesn’t do anything any more.”

“The American people have seen the do-nothing Senate for four years. I’d think they’d want to go in a different direction on Tuesday night,” he said.

McConnell envisions confronting the president on some issues — like the EPA — and working with him on others, like tax reform and free trade deals.

McConnell had stopped to take questions from a small group of reporters Sunday after greeting supporters at the end of a veterans’ parade in Madisonville in Western Kentucky, riding in the parade just ahead of Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, who was working the parade route.

“The American people have seen the do-nothing Senate for four years. I’d think they’d want to go in a different direction on Tuesday night,” said McConnell, who envisions confronting the president on some issues and working with him on others. Full story

Hal Rogers Eager for Majority Leader McConnell

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Singer Jimmy Rose has appeared with McConnell and Rogers (not pictured) on Capitol Hill and in Kentucky. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The man in charge of writing spending bills in the House sounds downright excited for the possibility of fellow Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell becoming Senate majority leader next year.

RollCall On the Road Logo150x150 Hal Rogers Eager for Majority Leader McConnell“I’m very hopeful and anxious that Mitch takes over the majority leader’s slot over there so that we can move these bills, and fund the government in a regular way — passing 12 individual bills on the House side and Senate side, then conferencing them in the old-fashioned way,” House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers said last week in an interview.

The scenario would play out if McConnell wins his own re-election Tuesday against Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Republicans pick up the six or more seats needed to flip control.

The two longtime appropriators go back decades and have coordinated on a number of projects, and they would be an even more powerful duo with McConnell running the Senate.

Over the weekend, the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call moved the race to Republican Favored. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sounded Saturday like he was expecting a McConnell victory. Full story

October 28, 2014

McConnell: Obamacare Repeal Will Take 60 Votes (Updated)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 9:35 p.m. | Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans won’t be able to repeal Obamacare anytime soon.

Tempering the expectations of conservatives a week before the elections that could install him as the first Republican majority leader in eight years, the Kentucky Republican said in a Fox News interview Tuesday a repeal of the health care law simply wasn’t in the cards for now.

He wasn’t telling Fox News anything that close observers of the Senate and the budget process didn’t already know, but it serves as a reminder of the limitations Republicans should expect even if they net six or seven seats, given the obvious reality that President Barack Obama is still in the White House.

McConnell said repealing Obamacare remains at the top of his priority list.

“But remember who’s in the White House for two more years. Obviously he’s not going to sign a full repeal, but there are pieces of it that are extremely unpopular with the American public and that the Senate ought to have a chance to vote on,” he said.

McConnell also noted Democrats could filibuster a repeal effort.

“It would take 60 votes in the Senate. No one thinks we’re going to have 60 Republicans, and it would take a presidential signature,” McConnell said. “I’d like to put the Senate Democrats in the position of voting on the most unpopular parts of this law and see if we can put it on the president’s desk.”

That suggests McConnell isn’t about to pull a nuclear option of his own and do away with the filibuster just for the sake of repealing the law.

Republicans including McConnell have talked about rolling back much of the Affordable Care Act through the budget reconciliation process — which would allow them to bypass a filibuster. That route is difficult to traverse and forbids the inclusion of items that are not budget-related. Such a bill could also still be vetoed, making the whole process a symbolic exercise without a Republican president.

Other smaller pieces might get super-majorities, such as repealing the 2 percent excise tax on medical devices. McConnell also mentioned nixing the individual mandate as another target.

McConnell again suggested Republicans would try to use the appropriations bills to rein in the Obama administration.

Asked about what a GOP-led Senate might do to blunt executive action on immigration policy that President Barack Obama is planning, McConnell used the example of environmental regulations.

“I think it’s a bad mistake for the president to try and assume powers for himself that many people feel he should not be assuming. You know, we’ve seen that on full display with the EPA and the war on coal,” McConnell said. “That’s not a result of any legislation that Congress passed. It’s just something the president wants to do on his own and uses the people who work for him to achieve. I think that’s a big mistake.”

Those spending restrictions could get to Obama’s desk, leaving the president to decide whether to use his veto authority.

Speaking to Fox from the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., during a campaign stop, McConnell counted the potential move on immigration as one such mistake. McConnell himself must overcome a challenge from Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, with a variety of public and internal polls showing the race competitive in the closing week. The Kentucky Senate race is rated Leans Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

“If the American people do change the Senate, and give the Republicans control of Congress, we certainly are, through the spending process, going to try to restrain the overactive bureaucracy that’s been attacking virtually every business in America,” McConnell said. “And we intend to push back against executive orders that we think aren’t warranted by … trying to control the amount of money that is allocated.”

But there’s only so much the GOP is going to be able to accomplish.

“He is the president of the United States, and he’ll be there until January 2017,” McConnell said of Obama.

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Democrats Run From Harry Reid

Harry Reid’s caucus is running from him on the campaign trail, but that doesn’t mean a revolt is in the works — yet.

The majority leader has twisted the Senate into a pretzel all year to protect his vulnerable members, but the Nevada Democrat is now facing skepticism on the campaign trail from some of those same Democrats, as well as from some would-be newcomers. And there’s at least one scenario that could force his hand.

Still, there’s that old saying: You can’t beat somebody with nobody, and so far, none of the senators who might have the chops to take on Reid have made any noises about doing so. Full story

October 15, 2014

McConnell Says CDC Should Get Money Needed to Battle Ebola

If federal health agencies under President Barack Obama want more money to fight Ebola, they should get it, according to the Senate’s top Republican.

“I think they should have anything they want. The president asked for $88 million a few weeks ago, we gave it to him,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told MSNBC. “Whatever the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] thinks they need, we’ll give it to them.”

Full story

Barney Frank’s Advice for Mitch McConnell

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Frank has advice for McConnell. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former Rep. Barney Frank has some words of wisdom for Sen. Mitch McConnell, should the Kentucky Republican claim the majority leader’s job in January.

“I think his choice will be whether or not he’s going to govern responsibly. It’s one thing to be in opposition and try to undercut the government. But when you’re a majority leader, I think you have a responsibility to do some things that might not be popular,” Frank said. “That’s not just a matter of his duty, it’s an electoral thing. I think if he becomes majority leader and does not stand up to his more right-wing elements, it’s going to be bad for his party as well as for the country.

Full story

October 8, 2014

McConnell: My Job Is to Protect Coal Jobs, Not Speculate on Global Warming (Audio)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would have none of it when the host of Kentucky Sports Radio pressed him Wednesday for his personal views on global warming.

“What I have said repeatedly is I’m not a scientist, but what I can tell you is, even if you thought that was important — and there are some scientists who do and some scientists who don’t — but even if you thought that was important, the United States doing this by itself is going to have zero impact,” the Kentucky Republican said.

Full story

September 22, 2014

McConnell Asks Medicare to Help Detect Lung Cancer in Smokers

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants Medicare to do more for early detection of lung cancer, a particularly pronounced issue in Kentucky.

Citing a U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommendation, the Kentucky Republican has sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner seeking review for possible coverage of low-dose CT scans to detect lung cancer among high-risk populations, such as pack-a-day smokers.

Full story

September 16, 2014

At Final Stakeout Before Election, Senate Leaders Bullish on Chances (Video)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

At what’s expected to be their final appearances before the cameras in the Ohio clock corridor before the midterm elections in November, the two political strategists leading the Senate offered predictably upbeat assessments for their respective parties’ chances.

“If the election were today, we would be just fine. The election’s not today, it’s 48 days away,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said — not long after his Republican counterpart Mitch McConnell of Kentucky expressed optimism the electorate would go their way.

Full story

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