McConnell pushes back on 'Kentucky kickback'
October 17th, 2013
11:13 AM ET
11 months ago

McConnell pushes back on 'Kentucky kickback'

(CNN) - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell denied slipping a special provision into a deal he co-engineered to end the 16-day government shutdown and end a showdown over raising the nation's debt ceiling.

And the longtime Republican Senator from Kentucky had an admonishment for Republicans whose sole focus is the "impossible dream" of ending Obamacare.

Conservative groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has promised to work to unseat lawmakers it doesn't feel are conservative enough, criticized McConnell for working with Democrats to end the shutdown. Senate Conservatives Fund said Wednesday night that the provision in the spending bill that benefits Kentucky was a special bit of pork placed there by McConnell, although the Senator and Democrats denied the claim.

"There was no earmark," McConnell told Lexington, Kentucky radio host Lee Cruse on WVLK radio Thursday morning. McConnell argued the Army Corps of Engineers asked for the money and the White House did too.

The spending bill added more than $2 billion for a system of locks under construction at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and between his home state and Illinois.

McConnell has been a chief backer of the project in past years and has requested earmarks for it in the past.

"Every single member of the Senate had an opportunity to review it and none asked for it to be taken out," McConnell said. He didn't point out that text of the legislation wasn't publicly released until just a few hours before the Senate vote.

Democrats and the White House have backed him up, saying the project needed to be funded or go dormant.

McConnell argued that the provision actually saves money by keeping the project from being shut down. It's pretty rare, McConnell argued, to save money in a spending bill.

McConnell is up for re-election next year and faces a tea party primary challenge as well as a strong Democratic opponent. As of Thursday morning, Matt Bevin, the primary challenger, had not reacted, one way or another, to the $2 billion for the system of locks.

Ending Obamacare is "Impossible Dream"

McConnell said it was regretful that the House couldn't  pass any legislation in the last week, which put Capitol Hill in a "box canyon," and "spending several weeks on an impossible dream that many of us have."

But the only way to do that is "making me majority leader," said McConnell, added the five term senator.

"It's clear that Democrats are not gonna blink" on Obamacare, he said, although he promised to keep up the fight against the health law.

"It's a disaster," he argued, pointing to the glitches in the healthcare.gov website.

McConnell to the Rescue

"I'm one of the biggest opponents of the Obama administration, but when the country is on the brink, I've stepped in on four occasions now" and brought the country back, added McConnell.

The other three instances where McConnell brokered deals with Democrats include fights in previous fights over the debt ceiling and also his role in helping bring the country back from the so-called "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts late in 2012. The spending cuts ultimately did kick in earlier this year.

To conservatives frustrated at his deal-making, McConnell said he can understand their frustration.

"I'm sympathetic. It wasn't a very good deal. But it wasn't a very good deal," he admitted. But that was because, McConnell argued, he didn't have much time to make the deal after House Republicans failed to pass their own plan.

"No action, when you're in a government shutdown and facing default, no action is not an option," he said.


Filed under: 2014 • Government Shutdown • Mitch McConnell
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    I don't trust this weasel; never have, never will!

    October 17, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  2. Lynda/Minnesota

    "But the only way to do that is "making me majority leader," said McConnell, added the five term senator."

    Thanks, but no thanks.

    "I'm one of the biggest opponents of the Obama administration, but when the country is on the brink, I've stepped in on four occasions now" and brought the country back, added McConnell."

    Lipstick on a turtle ... is still lipstick on a turtle.

    October 17, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  3. Data Driven

    Wow, watch me as I DEFEND Mitch McConnell!

    Earmarks are the very lifeblood of political compromise. Scratching each others' backs is how this country's political process has worked from its inception. Some years ago, earmarking was more or less ended in Congress, much to the country's detriment. As a result, we get "tea party" politicians not motivated by the usual goodies to take home to their constituents. The new breed is motivated by unhinged ideology.

    The fact that a "sweetener" for McConnell may have led to a deal in the Senate is proof positive of the benign effects of pork barrelling.

    Where have you gone, Pork Barrels? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you!

    October 17, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  4. sonny chapman

    Americans may not like "Earmark" Politics, but the current Tea Party Debacle DOESN'T WORK. It's THEIR Principal at OUR Cost.

    October 17, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  5. Wake up People!

    This country is in huge trouble when Mitch McConnell isn't conservative enough. If these people take control we will be in HUGE trouble. No rights for minorities and women. It will be like the 1950's all over again. This scares me more than an Al Queda attack. No more middle class and people starving in the streets.

    October 17, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  6. the hippies were right

    This contradicts everything the GOP has been preaching. We need term limits and criminal hearings for politicians who lie to the public while in office. Maybe that would stop the insanity.

    October 17, 2013 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  7. Marty, FL

    Fiscal "conservative" is a farce. The TGOP wasted $24 Billion on their gross shutdown while harming Americans needlessly.

    Fiscally "irresponsible" is more like it.

    October 17, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  8. $$$$

    I am glad the government shutdown is over with so we can discuss the real drag on the economy that is called OBAMACARE.

    October 17, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  9. Rick McDaniel

    McConnell sold out the country for money for his state. We all see that very clearly. He must have, a republican challenger in the next election.

    October 17, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  10. rs

    As someone who works in partnership with a federal agency, I can vouch for how hard it is to get even a simple web page built and online in a timely fashion- but hey, cut budgets, cut staff, low bids and the Sequester all force these agencies to use some pretty rotten private firms. This may well be an example of the GOP's ongoing attempts to break the government, then decrying how broken government is.
    The question stands: If the GOP hates the U.S. Government so much and wishes to damage it as they do, why do they want to be "leaders" in that government?

    October 17, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  11. Mike from Texas

    Good luck on that McConnell,...

    October 17, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  12. Winston Smith

    Hate to say it, but he's more the disease, than the cure. Clean house in 2014 and again in 2016. Let them know we've had enough and we're not going to stand for more.

    October 17, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    but when the country is on the brink, I've stepped in on four occasions now" and brought the country back, added McConnell.
    -------------------------------------------------
    GTFOOH.
    You don't get to MANUFACTURE crisis after crisis and then act like the hero in your own self-made soap opera.
    What is it with these deluded Republicans? Do they really think that we're ALL as stupid as the people that continue to vote for them?
    If you hadn't screwed things up recklessly AND unnecesarily you wouldn't have had to change into your Super Turtle outfit.

    October 17, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  14. Sniffit

    "The question stands: If the GOP hates the U.S. Government so much and wishes to damage it as they do, why do they want to be "leaders" in that government?"

    Because, it's destruction is best carried out as an inside job.

    October 17, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  15. Rudy NYC

    This project has been ongoing for years. It creates jobs in multiple states, and it improves the environment. No wonder the Tea Party extremists are dead set against it. It would be an example of government actually working to do some good.

    Maybe this will be the kick in the seat of the pants that makes McConnell finally realize that there is a growing faction within the right wing that is determined to bring about anarchy and chaos. They want to start all over from scratch, and rebuild it their way.

    October 17, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  16. Lynda/Minnesota

    @Dominican mama: "What is it with these deluded Republicans? Do they really think that we're ALL as stupid as the people that continue to vote for them?"

    Well, in a word: Yes.

    In a sentence: No, they don't think beyond their own ego. Ever.

    Personally, I can't stomach listening to this man. He reeks of condescending BS. Perhaps others such as myself tune him out to the point that he thinks we actually do believe his BS? Hard sell, I know, but I've given up trying to understand what makes this man a "god" in his own mind.

    October 17, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  17. OKfine

    "I'm one of the biggest opponents of the Obama administration, but when the country is on the brink, I've stepped in on four occasions now"
    _______________

    Sounds like Muchausens Syndrome by Proxy.

    October 17, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    On the flip side I don't mind a little sweetner either to get the deal done, even if it's for Kentucky home of Super Turtle.
    The WH is cool with it and so are the Democrats so let's just keep this moving before it logjams again.

    October 17, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  19. Malory Archer

    It really burns when you don't get to beat your chest and gloat that your ilk "won" and that President Obama got OWNED by the rethugs", doesn't it Rick McDaniel? My advice to you is: get used to it – this is only the beginning.

    October 17, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  20. Thomas

    @Rick McDaniel
    McConnell sold out the country for money for his state. We all see that very clearly. He must have, a republican challenger in the next election.

    =========

    So did Ted Cruz , but he didn't give it to his state .

    October 17, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  21. Les Legato

    Forget your McConnel,l we will get you out of the Senate ASAP

    October 17, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Lynda/Minnesota

    @Dominican mama: "What is it with these deluded Republicans? Do they really think that we're ALL as stupid as the people that continue to vote for them?"

    Well, in a word: Yes.

    In a sentence: No, they don't think beyond their own ego. Ever
    -------------------------------------------------
    It's like a disease or a prerequisite or something to being a Republican in government almost Lynda.
    Quite uncanny the size of their egos collective and individually.
    Look at the other one, Ted the Turd, with that Nixon-like smirk on his face swearing up and down that he was following the mandate of the American people and costing us 24 BILLION DOLLARS in the process.
    The only thing that I can fathom is that these people have been distancing themselves further and further from average Americans while aligning themselves with the Citizens United of our our country, the Heritage Foundation, the Koch brothers, the special interests. Everybody and their billionaire mother but not us.
    We must vote them out.
    I'm tired of living this way.

    October 17, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  23. Sniffit

    ""I'm one of the biggest opponents of the Obama administration, but when the country is on the brink, I've stepped in on four occasions now""

    Translation: "Because I'm one of the biggest opponents of the Obama administration, I've repeatedly helped bring the country to the brink, and I only back down once it becomes apparent that the POTUS isn't going to cave to my ransom demands."

    October 17, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  24. DARRELL SMITH

    MITCH McCONNELL IS NOT EVEN FROM KENTUCKY !!! HE'S AN ILLEGAL ALIEN HERE. HE DOES NOTHING FOR EASTERN KENTUCKY. HE NEEDS TO GO !!!! McConnell was born in Sheffield, Alabama in the hospital in Sheffield, which is now called the Helen Keller Hospital, and raised as a young child in nearby Athens.[5] Mitch McConnell was the son of Addison Mitchell McConnell, and his wife, Julia (née Shockley). As a youth he overcame polio.[6] His family moved to Georgia when he was eight.[7]

    When he was a teenager his family arrived in Louisville where he attended duPont Manual High School. He graduated with honors from the University of Louisville with a B.A. in political science in 1964.

    October 17, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Thomas

    @Rick McDaniel
    McConnell sold out the country for money for his state. We all see that very clearly. He must have, a republican challenger in the next election.

    =========

    So did Ted Cruz , but he didn't give it to his state
    -------------------------------------------------
    Oooh how true Thomas.
    Varying shades of shadiness and degrees of greediness.

    October 17, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
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