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."
If you want a conservative politician, vote Democrat. If you want a corporate extreme right wing politician, vote Republican. America is turning into a medieval feudalistic system.
About time, not-so-smart-senator-guy. Finally got around to doing something good for the country, did you? Either you're turning Democrat, or you're not long for the political world. Good riddance sweeping McConnell out of office for being an ineffective, money-grubbing clown. Now, if you could take Ted Cruz with you....
Best for the country? Since when Mitch? Your record indicates otherwise.
"My job is to protect the country when I can and to step up and lead on those occasions when it's required."
Sure. It had nothing to do with protecting the GOP's chances during the next election.
Did you know that Conservatives will vote Dem, just to get this empty suit out of office. He is Obama's enabler.
I actually respect the man for doing what he did.
GOP cowardice is fun to watch. Even more fun to watch than their ignorance.
Mother Teresa and the debt ceiling have nothing in common, and that is the problem with our congress.
From above – "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,"
No sire, what you did was bend over and let the Dems take you. I hope you lose in KY on your next election. You do NOT care about the United States, you only care about your jobs and it's perks. Time for you to go home.
is only for a year that's not enough to call Justin. that's kicking the can down the road. the Republicans steal a dog. the devil walking
Wow! Mitch had to do what's best for the country, of course it was after the kicking and screaming.
I doubt either side wants anything to do with McConnell.
How come the rest of republicans don't do the same?
Will someone please put this dying horse Cruz out of his misery.
No someone should track exactly where the money goes.
How many third world countries (that hate us btw) are going to get a check? How many raises/bonuses are the people responsible for the passing get?
Would be very interesting to have the power to make them accountable dollar-for-dollar where the money goes...
I'm not a fan of Mitch McConnell but in this case, I think he did the right thing, so I applaud him and the Republicans that had a backbone.
Vote this idiot out for better USA sake, Kentucky.
This idiot filibustered unemployment benefit while amassing 28 million dollars in 2010 signed for unfounded unneeded wars in Bush era. I think Kentucky got to have bunch of uneducated idiots. Drive this animal away immediately. Vote straight democratic ticket.
I almost had a heart attack!
He's did what's best for the country because he wants/needs to be reelected.
Make him a one term president hypocrite!
Mitch McConnell knows playing with debt ceiling is playing with fire it will burn the party
Many economist (from both side) said Immigration reform is good for the county why he postpone the reform to 2015
Good for the county give me a break
Contrary to what a bunch of RWNJ's think, this up coming election may surprise them. It surprised them when Mitt lost. I still chuckle over Karl Rove's antic's on Faux Noise when they got the news.
Their voter caging and voter machine tampering may not be enough to save their jobs.
between a rock and a tea party.
More debt and less jobs. Not good for anybody. So far the National Debt has continued to rise with no end in sight. The National Debt is more than the Gross National Product.
Someone on these posts said "I actually respect this guy for doing what's best for the country". Excuse me!! He voted for it and then voted against it!! If he was brave, he could have voted to end cloture and then voted to raise the debt ceiling which he didn't!!
Thank you Sir. God Bless you and I pray you are voted this upcoming election. You are indeed Sir to me, I salute you as I Fort Knox Kentucky to the Army Reserves. You saw God's vision and your even a greater Senator compare to so many Republican's out there. Sir reading this article, I know was hard for you, but you Sir helped made the change in this world, that many can not see why as of yet. You indeed saved our country from falling backwards into a recession again. I pray others will see and understand what I read today, I am greatful, and truly thankful for Senator's like you who had to make the decision for our country and you are indeed respected highly. Peace always and forever Tstar!