McConnell talks Ukraine, national policy, Supreme Court with Kentucky business leaders
LOUISVILLE — Addressing Louisville business leaders on Wednesday, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell highlighted where he agreed and disagreed with Washington Democrats on national policy. He did not mention the indictments against former President Donald Trump or the Kentucky gubernatorial race.
McConnell — who is riding a homecoming wave of support after his weekend attendance at the Fancy Farm Picnic, a West Kentucky political tradition — talked about his recent stances on Ukraine, coronavirus relief funding and infrastructure dollars during a Capitol Connection luncheon hosted by the local chamber of commerce, Greater Louisville, Inc.
“As long as I’m in this job, I’m going to be looking for things we can agree on to do and opposing vigorously, if I can, bad politics,” McConnell said.
His Saturday speech at the Graves County GOP Breakfast ahead of the picnic sent a message of strength after he stopped speaking mid-sentence in front of reporters in Washington last week — a moment that raised concerns about the Senate minority leader’s health.
On Wednesday, McConnell did not mention his health, but talked instead of his support for U.S. aid being sent to Ukraine as the country defends itself from Russia. He noted that other American allies, such as Japan, have sent money and resources to Ukraine. In recent weeks, McConnell has split with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., over the issue of aid. McCarthy has called for any further funding for Ukraine to come from the yearly appropriations process, not as part of a separate funding bill.
McConnell then pivoted to a critique of the Biden administration and congressional Democrats for the 2021 approval of the American Rescue Plan Act, which was a $1.9 trillion plan to support the economy as the country moved out of the coronavirus pandemic. McConnell said former Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers told lawmakers at the time that that the plan would lead to inflation and added “he was right.” Additionally, he said the funds created a workforce participation issue.
“The only way you can get at a problem like this typically is raising interest rates, which creates a whole new set of problems,” McConnell said.
McConnell supported the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) and another $900 billion in COVID relief aid that became law under former President Donald Trump.
McConnell also briefly touched on what he said was one of his greatest accomplishments — overseeing appointments to the Supreme Court, which received applause in the room. While noting it was controversial, McConnell said he decided in 2016 to not allow former President Barack Obama to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court because of past comments by Democrats, including then-Sen. Joe Biden in 1992.
“The surprise November election offered an opportunity for the Supreme Court, and subsequently two more vacancies, to quit being an extension of Congress and start being an independent branch of government,” McConnell said, adding that 54 circuit judge appointments were made in the previous administration, though he did not name Trump.
Continuing a theme from his Fancy Farm appearances over the weekend, McConnell reflected on his career and said he is grateful to represent Kentucky and recalled that he didn’t think he would win election the first time in 1984.