Washington (CNN) – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, on Friday defended his decision back home in Kentucky to join Democrats in a vote to clear a filibuster hurdle that allowed a vote to raise the debt ceiling.
"My job is to protect the country when I can and to step up and lead on those occasions when it's required. That's what I did," he said at a campaign appearance in Louisville.
McConnell was one of 12 Republican senators to join Democrats on Tuesday in voting to end debate on the debt-ceiling bill that will extend the federal debt limit for a year, a move his opponents have been quick to criticize him for.
President Obama signed the bill into law Saturday in California, the White House said in a statement.
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Matt Bevin, a tea party conservative who is challenging McConnell in the Kentucky GOP primary in May, said in a statement after the vote Tuesday, "Kentucky and America can literally no longer afford such financially reckless behavior from the likes of Mitch McConnell."
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who threatened to filibuster the vote, criticized Senate Republicans for joining with Democrats to vote for the bill saying, "Every Senate Republican should have stood together."
Commenting on McConnell's vote, Cruz said that it "is ultimately a decision for the voters in Kentucky."
Both Bevin and Cruz also said that McConnell and other Senate Republicans helped give Obama a "blank check."
Appearing on Mark Levin's radio program Thursday night, Cruz said, "If 41 Republicans had stood together and just voted no, the clean debt ceiling, the blank check for President Obama and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, would have been denied."
On Friday Bevin tweeted, "@Team_Mitch gave Obama blank check to 'take one for the team' Which team is he talkin about?"
When asked about his opponents’ comments, McConnell defended his position at the event Friday saying, "My preference is for a debt ceiling to carry additional legislation that does something about the debt."
"I've obviously demonstrated that," McConnell said. "I negotiated the Budget Control Act with Vice President Biden in August of 2011. It led to a deficit-reduction package that actually reduced government spending for two years in a row for the first time since right after the Korean War."
McConnell said the House's inability to come together on a different version of the bill gave him no choice but to vote in favor of passing a clean debt-ceiling bill.
"My first choice would be to pass a debt ceiling that had something related to doing something about the debt on it, but as you know, the House of Representatives couldn't pass anything else other than a clean debt ceiling. They couldn't pass anything else."
"The Speaker tried a whole lot of different versions, add-ons to the debt ceiling. He couldn't get to 218 no matter what combination. So we were confronted with a clean debt ceiling in the Senate or default."
House Speaker John Boehner, after unsuccessfully trying to gather enough Republicans to vote on a new version of the bill joked on February 6th, "You know, Mother Teresa is a saint now, but if the Congress wanted to make her a saint and attach that to the debt ceiling, you probably couldn't get 218 Republican votes."
McConnell also defended his record as a legislator who averts crises, saying: "I believe I have to act in the best interest of the country, and every time we've been confronted with a potential crisis, the guy you're looking at is the one who stepped up and solved the problem,” he said. “Whether it was the fiscal cliff deal at the end of 2012, when everyone's taxes were going up. Whether it was last October in the 16th day of the government shutdown or yesterday, or Thursday, when it was clear that we needed to produce enough procedural votes to get to a debt ceiling vote in order to avoid a default."
What a joke. Mitch has never cared for what is best for the country. Good luck KY.
Living within our means is what's best for the country.........not handing Obama another blank check.
This guy is a shame to this nation. Just vote this animal out, Kentucky.
For once I agree with Mitch. If you want to cut the deficit, stop spending money. Don't make threats that you can't keep, especially with the credit of the US. Tea baggers are the worst thing ever to happen to this country
Its time to get RID of the RINOS like McConnell and Boehner...
Why now Mitch? Because it's election year and you're hoping the American people are stupid enough to believe you actually care about the country and forget your party campaigned on shutting down the government in 2012??
Say what you want of McConnell. When push comes to shove he can be a statesman and that is more that I can say for many of his senate colleagues. He is anti Obama and pro America. Some of the more myopic folks on here fail to see that.
If the TeaParty Republicans want to control spending, then get Congress to quit passing legislation that authorizes spending. Raising the Debt Ceiling is allowing our gov't to pay bills for spending that's already been authorized. Voting against raising the debt ceiling is barring the door after the cows have already been let out.
i can't agree with what mr. mcconnell did, but it's good to see someone acting against their partisan politics in order to try to do good for america. too bad, he's on the wrong side.
At least one GOP member has come to his senses and is starting to see the light.Now if we could just exile the rest of the traitorous Tea Party saboteurs,we could get this country moving in the right direction!
"I had to do what's best for the country"
Make Obama a one turm president !
Get ready for the tech bubble crash of 2015.
Mitch, your job has *always* been to do what's best for the country. This is just the first time you've actually every done it.
I certainly hope that the tea party candidate beats McConnell in the primary. Having the far right wing nut on the ballot against a moderate democrat will give the democrats another seat in the Senate. Ted Cruz is said to be smart... just like Rick Perry was smart.. and Ross Perot was smart... when in truth is they are all looney toons that the country will reject as a whole.
McConnell, you are alright with me. Boehner tried and tried in the House to get the debt ceiling tied to
something that would limit spending. It wasn't going to happen. That Bevin is politically reckless. To attack you as financially reckless is laughable.
Now he decides to do what is right? Why now? Challenger at home perhaps?
Oh, what a hero he is! Yeeeaaah. Actually, he was forced to vote for cloture cuz a few moderate Senatorsmade it clear that they were done taking the bullets unless. Gop leadership stood with them for once.
So... was he for it before he was against it.... or was he against it before he was for it?
Do we have overdraft protection?
Lucky woman, Mrs. McConnell! Yes, he is married to former Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao. Romantic, yes?
Correction: McConnell did what was best for his lobbyist keepers, not the people.
Reductions could come right now. They did no need to be tied to the debt limit increase.
"I had to do what was best for the country." WOW. Really? Did you JUST figure out that that is THE SUM TOTAL OF YOUR JOB?! NOT what Is best for your party. NOT what is best for the Koch brothers. NOT what will make Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity happy. And NOT what will help you "make Obama a one term President. I strongly suggest that you take that sentence and frame it above your desk in your Senate office as a daily reminder of what your job actually IS.
Finally. At last.
Mitch – not to belabor your overt obstruction of anything Obama, but, motivated by politics alone,you and your party have really hurt our nation.
Your vote was the beginning of atonement for that grievous wrong.
How pathetic is it that the adults in the GOP have to save America from the childish radical nut cases in their own party?
GOP...FAIL! Yet again. We truly need a strong third party. Let's just call it: "We The People"