April 19th, 2010
08:27 AM ET
4 years ago

McConnell explains Wall Street meeting with Cornyn


Washington (CNN) – A day after President Obama sought to use a closed-door meeting between Wall Street leaders and two top Senate Republicans as political ammunition in the battle over financial regulatory reform, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to explain the meeting.

In a rare move, Obama used his weekly internet and radio address to single out McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn, who leads the GOP's effort to elect Republicans to the Senate in November.

Related: Obama touts financial reform

The changes sought by Democrats "have not exactly been welcomed by the people who profit from the status quo – as well their allies in Washington," Obama said in his address. "This is probably why the special interests have spent a lot of time and money lobbying to kill or weaken the bill. Just the other day, in fact, the leader of the Senate Republicans and the chair of the Republican Senate campaign committee met with two dozen top Wall Street executives to talk about how to block progress on this issue.

"Lo and behold, when he returned to Washington, the Senate Republican Leader came out against the common-sense reforms we've proposed."

Asked about the meeting on CNN's State of the Union Sunday , McConnell rejected any suggestion that the meeting was used to craft ways to block financial regularly reform. Ultimately, McConnell said Cornyn was there because he will be voting on the reform legislation.

"Did the meeting take place?," CNN Chief Political Correspondent and State of the Union anchor Candy Crowley asked McConnell. "What was the conversation?"

"Well, we certainly didn't talk about blocking the bill," the Kentucky Republican replied. "I don't know anybody who's in favor of blocking this bill."

McConnell added, "I thought [the president] wanted us to have a bipartisan bill. That's what I would like to have. We are in the process of gathering information from people all across the country, from Wall Street to Main Street to try to get advice about doing this right."

McConnell also said that he met recently with bankers in his home state who oppose the current version of the financial reform bill.

Pressed by Crowley about how Cornyn's involvement, at least created the appearance that Republicans were playing politics with the issue of reform, McConnell denied Obama's accusation.

"Well, look, we were talking about financial regulation, as everybody in the country is talking about it," the top Senate Republican said. "Most of the people in New York supported the president, the vast majority of them are on his side. They supported him during the election, they still support him. Is he saying we shouldn't sit down with his supporters and talk about a bill that he thinks we ought to pass and that I think we ought to pass? This is absurd, he..."

"Why was Sen. Cornyn there?," Crowley queried.

"Candy, [Obama] is the one who is trying to politicize this issue. We are the ones who are trying to get it right," he replied.

Crowley pressed McConnell again about Cornyn's attendance at the meeting. "But what did the Wall Street people tell you?"

"Well, they have concerns about the bill," the Senate minority leader explained, adding that he thought the Senate ought to "go back to the drawing board" and fix the legislation.

"Let me try one more time," Crowley volleyed. "Why was Sen. Cornyn in that meeting of all of the other senators you could have taken with you?"

"Sen. Cornyn is a United States senator from Texas," McConnell explained. "He is going to be voting on this issue like all the rest of us are. Simply because we are all involved in politics, as is the president, it doesn't mean that we can't discuss issues with people that we meet around the country who are deeply involved and concerned about what we are doing."

Later on State of the Union, Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, called on McConnell and Senate Republicans to propose alternatives to the component of the bill they have been voicing objections to in the past week. All 41 Senate Republicans have said they oppose the legislation as it currently stands but the White House signaled late last week that it is open to changes to the bill.

Related: Congress divided over financial reform bill


Filed under: John Cornyn • Mitch McConnell • Wall Street
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