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."
When the only way you can meet your debt obligations is to take on more debt, you've got a serious problem. Ultimately, those accusing McConnell and Boehner of handing Obama a blank check are spot on, because it is votes like these that allow him to continue spending well beyond what we take in each year.
If Republicans instead advanced a bill that would prioritize our debt obligations, and permit borrowing only as necessary on a short-term basis to meet those obligations at any given point, and taken such a message to the population...not only would our credit be secure, but we could stop digging and start filling in the massive pit that has been dug.
Please! I'm a lifelong KY resident and in my opinion McConnell is the worst legislator we've ever had. He is desperately trying to hold onto his senate seat. He's a dishonest, unethical man who should never have been voted in in the first place. He care's nothing about the people of Kentucky, except for his wealthy band of supporters. To most of us, he is a joke.
If McConell really wanted to do what's best for the country, he'd resign.
McConnell said he did what is best for the country, what a sell out. Party line is all powerful overlord that must never be trifled with.
We all know the government needs to cut spending but neither party has the guts to make the cuts because they'll lose votes in the upcoming election.
What's best for the country is voting RINOs out of Congress.
I don't know what will really happen if and when the debt ceiling is truly breached, leaving the Department of the Treasury no choice but to not pay a bill that is due. I hope I never find out.
Well, it's about time, Mitch.
Now the people in ky will tell him if he was right or wrong.
Well, it's the election year. A default and a shutdown? That wouldn't be good.
Obama is a disaster for America.
Any sane person would see that McConnell acted responsibly for a change....likely because he doesn't want to get blamed for pushing the U.S. and world economies to total collapse again, but he voted for the nation's best for a change regardless. It's amazing the way these teabugggers can turn that around and make voting not to destroy our economy an irresponsible thing. Curious as to what loons are voting for them.
McConnell and Boehner. MVPs for the Democrats. Traitors to their own party's values and agenda. These RINOs must go immediately.
How do I borrow more money, and pass the payments to your children and grandchildren?
putting personal agenda aside i wish everyone can work together for the good of our country. Maybe it's time to start focusing on our country and not inter party conflicts.....
Finally. An admission that, whatever its merits as a theory, conservatism in practice is inconsistent with the national interest.
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."
Yet they keep insisting that the Democrats 'control' the Senate.
I don't think the folks criticizing McConnell understand what the debt ceiling is; it allows the government to pay off its credit cards. The "budget" allows the United States to charge things to those credit cards...but then again, there were Congressmen that were "surprised" that they couldn't stop their own pay, which is a federal law which just shows that even the people in Congress (from both parties) don't know what their predecessors have already passed.
The tea party, can pack their bags, go back the holes they came from, Mitch did the right thing
What McConnell did was allow the bill to come to the floor where Democrats with a simple majority passed the debt ceiling increase. Now he tries to hide behind the fact that he voted against the bill which actually raised the debt ceiling. Seems like a distinction without a difference. Another question should be asked of McConnell. If America's continued deficit spending is bad, then why was his vote the best thing to do for the country?
I don't care for McConnell but he did what was right – and he's getting roasted by the GOP extremists for it. The problem isn't the debt ceiling, it's the budget passed by the House, Senate, and President – which involves both parties. If the GOP doesn't like the debt, then they can stop funding their pet programs when they pass a budget. That's enough to cover the deficit alone.
The destructive and obstructive Tea Party prefers hostage-taking to doing what's right for America. The debt ceiling is raised to pay the bills we've already incurred. The Tea Party offers no actual ideas or solutions – just works to destroy our federal government and hurt the working class.
$17.293 Trillion in debt and counting. This is the biggest topic that no one is talking about. It is the ten thousand pound elephant in the middle of the room. It either gets fixed soon, or someone is going to pop this currency bubble just like they did the housing bubble in 08'. The only difference is that this society won't recover they way we know it today.
For once the GOP leadership did the right thing. They now need to muzzle that Canadian Cruz...