Mitch McConnell on allowing debt-ceiling vote: "I had to do what's best for the country"
February 15th, 2014
06:49 PM ET
8 months ago

Mitch McConnell on allowing debt-ceiling vote: "I had to do what's best for the country"

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.


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."


Filed under: Debt • Mitch McConnell
soundoff (107 Responses)
  1. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the repub/tea bag majority

    Finally, McConnell decides to do what is best for our country. Gee, it took him only 5 years after President Obama was elected the FIRST time to figure this out ... and his motivation is pathetically transparent: He and his repub brethren are desperate to make their low-information voter base forget all the harm they have done these past 5 years.

    Remember this, folks, come November 4, 2014: The day after President Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009, McConnell and the repub Congressional "leadership" met and decided their #1 priority was to block everything President Obama would try to do, regardless of the harm it would do our country.

    And they did – up to and including threatening to default on our debt and causing a downgrade in our nation's credit rating AND shutting down the government, at a cost of about $24 BILLION to our economy.

    Only a truly dim person will vote repub/tea bag in November ...

    February 15, 2014 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  2. hohotai

    McConnell in this case is a responsible Republican, doing what is right for the country. His RINO Tea Party opponents don't have a plan, don't have a vision. They are only set on revolution without a clue as to what would lie on the other side, except for the hope and belief that they would be in power. A dangerous bunch to be sure.

    February 15, 2014 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  3. Mike from Texas

    McConnell and Cornyn are both liberal communist sympathizers!!!! They are secret democrats!

    February 15, 2014 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  4. Stephen Daugherty

    There is no blank check, you blithering idiots. He can only spend what's in the budget. The budget Republicans must approve. The problem is, if they can't blackmail him with the debt ceiling, they can't force things as far as they want to.

    February 15, 2014 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  5. Penny Wright

    Reagan and the two Bushes created 90% of the National Debt.

    February 15, 2014 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  6. bspurloc

    yeah ok buddy... your poll numbers are in the toilet u mean

    February 15, 2014 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  7. Rick

    Its a lose-lose situation for the Republicans. They are still licking their wounds inflicted from Ted Cruz's last suicidal ploy. They dont want the same situation again yet they are wary of the Tea Party challengers from the right.

    February 15, 2014 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  8. rs

    I don't like Mr. McConnell and I especially don't like his destructive politics as has been on display since 2009. Yet, I find some sympathy for him. His party is attack from a hyper radical element in the TEA Party within the GOP; he is being primaried by a much more radical candidate (supported by Texas $); and he is actually beginning to see Americans don't want the drama and fake crisis, like more debt-ceiling brinksmanship. In other words, Mr. McConnell appears to have figured out his party is on the wrong tack, and it is self-destructing.
    Congratulations for doing the right thing. However sir, it may be too late.

    February 15, 2014 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  9. bob mack

    Bevin and Cruz are dead wrong, and irresponsibly inaccurate, when they accuse Senator McConnell of "reckless behavior" and "handing Obama a blank check."...Senator McConnell and his colleagues WERE ONLY VOTING ON WHETHER OR NOT THE UNITED STATES SHOULD HONOR OUR DEBT OBLIGATIONS. They were NOT voting on additional spending, they were NOT voting on giving Obama additional money to spend. ...So if Bevin, Cruz, and The Tea Party are saying that the United States should not honor our debt obligations, THAT would be "reckless behavior." ... If you want to reduce Congessional spending, write and vote on legislation to do just that. But DO NOT attack a Senator or Congressman, who is simply voting to honor our country's debt obligations, on spending that we have already done!

    February 15, 2014 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  10. Conservative

    Wow..... yet another windbag politician. The only reason he "backed down" is because the repubs don't want to appear as the party of no. They don't want to be blamed for the government coming to a grinding halt just before and election. It's embarrassing how the politicians act these days. Their only focus is job preservation. Maybe when he gets off his self created pedestal he can explain how it's "good for the country" to elevate the national debt to levels that can't be repaid for decades. What we need in Washington, whether you are conservative, liberal, libertarian, etc. is to remove this "country club" of self appointed elitists and put educated, every day people in control. All of Washington has lost touch with the rest of country. Until we the people have true representation in Washington, the ridiculous acts of the politicians there today will continue. Term limits would be a great step forward in keeping the government alive with fresh ideas and responsible people. Today's politicians get entrenched in their office and fight to stay there. Cheese and wine are two things that get better with age. Politicians, ... not so much.

    February 15, 2014 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  11. Tom_Gwynn

    It's nice to see even a tiny bit of sanity breaking through in the modern Republican party. The full faith and credit of the United States is not a bargaining chip and never should have been. That's what attaching legislation to the debt ceiling really means... "you give us what we want, or we allow the country to default."

    February 15, 2014 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  12. Person

    McConnell did do what's best for the country, as he says. But it's too bad he and other moderates didn't stand up to the crazies a lot earlier.

    February 15, 2014 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  13. Ed in Reno, NV

    "Kentucky and America can literally no longer afford such financially reckless behavior from the likes of Mitch McConnell."

    Only the Tea Party can call paying your bills "financially reckless behavior."

    February 15, 2014 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  14. Paper Street Soap Company

    McConnell and his 11 fellow GOPers briefly suffered deja vu and, thinking Bush the Lesser was still president, obediently raised the limit without question just as die Partei did for 8 years.

    February 15, 2014 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  15. ray sawyer

    Cruz is right – Republicans should have stuck together – except it's he who wants to endanger the country. I can't decide whether it's just that he's too stupid to understand what the debt ceiling is about, or whether he just wants to play to the wing nut crowd of and outside his party no matter what the consequences would be.

    February 15, 2014 11:53 pm at 11:53 pm |
  16. rockymtnrebl

    Beyond hilarious. Mitch doing what is best for the country instead of what is the best for the republican party.

    February 15, 2014 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  17. kirk

    Here's a thought. Why don't republicans and democrats put aside their own personal agenda for the good of our country. How nice would it be...... think about it

    February 16, 2014 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  18. G Hill

    Sometimes a crisis forces one to confront reality.

    February 16, 2014 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  19. BeverlyNC

    No. McConnell did what was best for McConnell. He has been the leader of 470 filibusters in the Senate so no legislation for People came up for debate, much less of a vote. He is losing his bid for re-election back in Kentucky. Even the Republican PACs are running negative ads against him in KY.
    The ONLY reason McConnell went with raising the debt limit is he could not be hit with more blame for shutting down the government again and costing the economy $26B.
    McConnell also made sure the Senate vote was not public so Republicans who voted to raise the debt limit got political cover.
    McConnell has betrayed the People, used the Senate as a personal game to try to destroy President Obama by filibustering more bills than in our entire nation's history.
    Who gets credit for getting the debt limit raised? President Obama because he refused to let Republicans hold our nation's credit rating hostage to extremist demands.
    McConnell and his agenda of hate and obstruction will be gone after November and real leadership will come to the Senate with more Democratic common sense and with leaders who are the voice of the People not the corporations who buy Republicans like McConnell.

    February 16, 2014 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  20. darknesscrown

    Pretty pathetic that members of Congress have to explain themselves when they actually do something they were elected to do. I don't know what reality Tea Party types are living in, but it certainly isn't THIS one. You can't elect people to NOT govern. Idiots. That's not how it works...and that's why you will get shellacked in the mid-terms.

    February 16, 2014 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  21. The Republican Party Is Dead To Me

    Why is this man apologetic for doing whats right for the country? What gives with this kind of leadership. I'd think the country would be his first and foremost concern, regardless of the pressure from those in his own party to derail everything, for the sake of party politics.

    February 16, 2014 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  22. airjackie

    Poor Mitch McConnell had no choice but to assure his corporation donors and the Contractors that McConnell works for. Many lawmakers have not worked for the people and now want the votes. Mitch does not work for what is best for this country as he showed with vote to shut down the government. Mitch stood proud on Jan. 15, 2009 and promised nothing would be done to help this President recovery the economy/Jobs. Well he kept the promise and again in Obama's second term McConnell promised nothing would be done.

    February 16, 2014 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  23. Anonymous

    "The guy you're looking at..."
    He's the guy that stepped up at every crisis?
    Oh man, he's believing his self-confidence coach. Help us all.

    February 16, 2014 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  24. JMorcan

    There's no excuse for this. You're all just cowards and thieves.

    February 16, 2014 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  25. Richard

    Always raising the ceiling, but never doing anything to stop it from reaching the new ceiling. Thats uncontrolable spending. That's what needs to be fixed

    February 16, 2014 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
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