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October 31, 2014

Posts in "Mitch McConnell"

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

September 10, 2014

Obama Lobbying for Authority to Equip Syrian Rebels (Updated) (Video)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 2:54 p.m. | Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is backing President Barack Obama’s renewed push for authority to train and equip Syrian rebels as part of his plan to take on the Islamic State, as the president himself is lobbying lawmakers to act before heading home.

Reid called on Congress to approve so-called “Title 10″ authority, which would allow the U.S. to train and equip rebels in Syria and others who are fighting ISIS.

“The president has tried to get that from us and we should give it to him,” Reid said. “That is one way of helping build an international coalition.”

Full story

On Equal Pay Bill, Republicans Face Certain Criticism

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Mikulski, before a news conference on the Senate steps before the last votes on the Paycheck Fairness Act in April. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans should prepare to be criticized regardless of how they vote Wednesday afternoon when the Senate reconsiders legislation known as the Paycheck Fairness Act.

It’s an underlying bill that Republicans don’t support, and voting for cloture on proceeding to it would be a reverse in strategy from the last time it came up. For Democrats, who view the GOP as meddling with their schedule of pre-election votes, either vote by the GOP counterparts will be pushed as a negative, making this a classic case of election-year theater all around.

An email circulated to Democratic communications aides and obtained by CQ Roll Call late Tuesday points to a strategy of either criticizing Republicans for voting yes to limit debate on proceeding to a gender pay equity bill that they don’t support and burning valuable floor time, or for voting no and blocking a debate.

Full story

September 7, 2014

McConnell Hints at Prolonged Campaign Finance Debate

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Democrats are facing the prospect of Republicans voting to prolong debate on a campaign finance constitutional amendment, a move that could interfere with Democrats’ plans for a barrage of pre-election votes on issues from student loans to the minimum wage to equal pay for women.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has already scheduled a Monday evening vote to cut off debate on taking up a proposal sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. to amend the constitution to effectively overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which threw out many limits on campaign spending on First Amendment grounds. Republicans vehemently oppose the amendment and it seemed, at least at the outset, that Democrats were planning for a quick defeat.

“Their goal is to shut down the voices of their critics at a moment when they fear the loss of their fragile Senate majority. And to achieve it, they’re willing to devote roughly half of the remaining legislative days before November to this quixotic anti-speech gambit,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote in Politico opinion piece posted late Sunday.

His complaint is more than a complaint — he has assigned an extended period of time beyond the few hours of debate that would happen if his party simply voted “No” on Monday. So reading between the lines, McConnell may be hinting the GOP will allow debate to continue and, therefore, use procedure to lock Democrats into a prolonged debate.

Full story

August 26, 2014

McConnell Wants Details From Obama on Plans for ISIS

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants President Barack Obama to present Congress with a plan to fight the Islamic State, including any potential needs for a new authorization for use of military force.

“The President needs to develop a regional strategy, working with our allies, to defeat ISIL, and to use the full extent of his authorities to attack this enemy force. The President needs to present this plan to the Congress and the American people. And where the President believes he lacks authority to execute such a strategy, he needs to explain to the Congress how additional authority for the use of force will protect America,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call. “The threat from ISIL can no longer be ignored, and it is time for President Obama to exercise some leadership in launching a response.”

Full story

August 8, 2014

Senators Watching as Kerry Visits Myanmar

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McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, met with Suu Kyi during a 2012 visit to the Capitol. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Myanmar Saturday to meet with government officials there along with ASEAN Regional Forum and other meetings, the Senate will be watching.

The week before the chamber left for August recess, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell provided one of his periodic updates on the current political climate in the country, formerly known as Burma. The Kentucky Republican has long been one of the Senate’s leading voices, along with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, against a repressive military junta that long ruled the country with an iron fist.

Recent democratic changes have led to easing of U.S. economic sanctions against the country, but McConnell had a warning for the country’s rulers that more must be done. In a July 24 floor speech, he cited specifically a constitutional provision that has the effect of barring Nobel laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the presidency.

Full story

July 29, 2014

Senate Passes Highway Patch Boehner Plans to Reject

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Wyden’s transportation amendment passed. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Senate Tuesday approved a short-term patch to keep funds flowing to highway projects through Dec. 19, but Speaker John A. Boehner has already promised to strip the Senate provisions and send the House-passed bill right back.

After the Senate’s version of the bill passed 79 to 18 — Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah called it a “free vote…because the House is going to send this right back, they are going to strip everything out — after they’ve left” for the August recess.

Boehner is playing hardball.

“I just want to make clear, if the Senate sends a highway bill over here…we’re gonna strip it out and put the House- passed provisions back in and send it back to the Senate,” the Ohio Republican told reporters Tuesday morning. Full story

July 24, 2014

McConnell Seeks to Break Out Funding for Israel’s Iron Dome From Border Bill

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is introducing standalone legislation to provide funding for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system.

The Kentucky Republican’s bill would meet a supplemental funding request from the Pentagon for $225 million for the program. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., included the funding in her much broader supplemental that would primarily address the crisis of unaccompanied migrant children entering the United States from Central America — but Republicans are balking at that $3.6 billion bill.

“Republicans are united in support of our ally Israel. We have legislation that would allow Congress to meet the Secretary’s request. And we hope our friends on the other side will join us in coming to a sensible, bipartisan solution that can be passed quickly,” McConnell said in a floor speech. “As most senators know, the Iron Dome missile defense system has played a critical role in defending Israel’s population from the rocket attacks launched by Hamas from within the Gaza Strip.

“By passing a bipartisan measure to meet the secretary’s request, we can send a message to Hamas that its terrorist tactics and its attempts to terrorize Israel’s populace will not succeed,” he said.

Republicans aren’t happy that Mikulski’s bill would not make changes to a 2008 anti-trafficking law. The two parties remain far apart on the best way to address the immigration crisis. McConnell’s move allows Republicans to demonstrate that they are supportive of the requested funds for defense of Israel even if they oppose the broader package.

But it likely does not speak well to the prospects that the two sides will reach a deal.

July 8, 2014

Hobby Lobby, Immigration Supplemental At Top of Reid’s July Agenda (Video)

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Reid says he doesn’t support offsets to the White House’s supplementary spending bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., plans a packed July work period with the Senate expected to consider a raft of bills, including a Democratic response to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision and the emergency immigration supplemental spending bill.

“We have so much to do this month,” Reid said after a meeting with his Democratic colleagues. “At the caucus that I just completed we weren’t able to get through all the issues. So we have to finish our work on Thursday just to talk about them.”

Reid said a top priority is taking action in response to the court’s 5-4 ruling that closely held corporations did not have to provide contraceptive services as part of health insurance plans if they have religious objections.

“The one thing we are going to do during this work period, sooner rather than later, is to ensure that women’s lives are not determine by virtue of five white men,” Reid said. “This Hobby Lobby decision is outrageous and we are going to do something about it. People are going to have to walk down here and vote. And if they vote with the five men on the Supreme Court I think they are going to be treated unfavorably come November.” Full story

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