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Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell Says No Last Minute Closed Door Deal To Avoid Sequester

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GB: I’m very pleased to be joined by the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Senator, it’s great to talk to you again.

MM: Hello, glad to be with you.

GB: Well, there’s a lot to get to on the sequester today, lots of busyness and activity in your upper chamber of Congress, two separate votes. Let’s talk about the Democrats’ proposal first, because it just cracks me up. This is supposedly a debt and deficit reduction proposal. It raises taxes, of course, it cuts Defense spending more, and it actually adds billions of dollars to the deficit. How can they offer this with a straight face, having had sixteen months to come up with something better?

MM: Well, it’s hard to understand, isn’t it? I mean, what’s really going on here, just to get to the nub of it, we promised the American people a year and a half ago that we would reduce spending this year by the amount of money that’s in question. And the only issue here is whether we’re going to keep the promise we made. By the way, this is a bill the President signed. He doesn’t like the way the spending reduction is achieved because of the sequester, but the sequester, of course, was his idea, which Bob Woodward has made perfectly clear.

GB: Watch it, Senator, you might have to regret pointing that out.

MM: Yeah, well Bob Woodward hadn’t made a career trying to help Republicans, which I think makes it even clearer…

GB: I think that’s the understatement of the year.

MM: Yeah, so it’s clear that it was his idea. And a fundamental question, leaving, just leaving the politics aside for a minute, the question is are we willing to cut a federal government that’s going to spend $3.6 trillion dollars this year, cut its spending by 2.4% over the next six months? You know, most Americans have had bigger setbacks than that on one or more occasions over the last four years of high unemployment and slow growth. This bloated federal government needs to reduce spending, and these are spending reductions, by the way, that we already promised that we would make. So this about an effort on the part of the President and the Democratic majority in the Senate to renege on a commitment they made to reduce spending this year.

GB: Yeah, and just, they say hey, we want to reduce the deficit in a balance way, and I guess their definition of balance is to increase the deficit and raise taxes. It’s sort of mind-blowing. They also torpedoed the Republican alternative that was vote on procedurally today. I guess there were some Republicans, conservatives who had problems with the concept, which was let the President have more flexibility in determining how the cuts go down. He’s been arguing oh, my hands are tied, so I have to do these painful things first. That is not true to begin with, but this bill would have made it explicit that the President would have had more leeway to decide what things would get cut first. He’d have more flexibility. The White House threatened to veto a bill that would untie the President’s hands, even though they’ve been complaining about his hands being tied. I’m a little unclear on that.

MM: Yeah, they don’t want, they don’t want the flexibility, oddly enough. But if you were running a company, and you were going to reduce some spending, your board of directors would probably say we’d like to give you the discretion to do that in the most effective way. Now some of my members actually voted against it, because they didn’t trust the President to make these decisions in a non-punitive way. So I can understand that, and we had some differences of opinion about the best way to deal with the issue. But let me tell you what we don’t have any difference of opinion on. We’re not in favor of reducing spending a penny less than we promised the American people we would. And we’re not in favor of raising any more taxes on anybody in order to substitute for cutting spending. We’re unified on that, and the Democrats are continuing to use every opportunity they have to try to have further tax increases on the American people.

GB: So both Senate plans went down today, neither one is going to go into effect with any time to head over to the House anyhow. Are the sequester cuts going to be implemented tomorrow, Senator? And can you rule out a last minute, closed door deal?

MM: Yeah, there’s not going to be any deal. The sequester will kick in tomorrow. Exactly how severe that all is, the President’s trying to convince everybody, of course, it’s Armageddon. Imagine if the sequester occurred, and it had very little impact on most Americans. I think we’re going to find out, because the sequester will begin tomorrow.

GB: All right, Senator, just shifting gears to something a little bit more personal, in your home state of Kentucky, you are up for reelection this or next year, rather, this coming cycle, and there’s a left wing group in your state called Progress Kentucky, that has put out a number of tweets that have targeted your wife, who for listeners who don’t know, is the former Labor Secretary, Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan, of Taiwanese and Chinese descent. The tweets form this group, Progress Kentucky, I think to any fair observer, were xenophobic and racially suspect. There’s been a big brouhaha over this. There’s been a really tepid, lame apology issued to your wife. Is that apology enough? Does your family accept it? And have they apologized to you?

MM: It’s not a real apology. They’re racial slurs against my wife, who’s a distinguished American, whose family came to our country legally by choice to realize the American dream. And she ended up being in President Bush’s cabinet. I’m used to them attacking me. Attacking my wife, of course, and engaging in racial slurs is a new low, and exactly what you can expect from the left in America these days.

GB: Let me ask you, Senator, I know that your wife is a very accomplished woman in her own right, and she can handle this sort of thing. But on a personal note, this is your wife, and they’re taking these racial shots at her. Does it hurt you personally to see that happen?

MM: Well of course. You know, attacking your wife? I mean, is there nothing out of bounds for these people? You know, I know I’m fair game, but now they want to attack my wife? This just shows you the depths to which the radical left will descend. They’ll engage in racial slurs, they’ll make stuff up. These people have no standards at all. Fortunately, I don’t expect the people of Kentucky to be fooled by any of this.

GB: All right, Senator, finally, I want to ask you about another issue that came up in the Senate. It’s confirmation season right now. And I think a lot of conservatives were very dismayed by the confirmation of now Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. I know you voted at every turn to block his nomination. During his confirmation hearings, I think he was shown to be manifestly incapable and unqualified for that position. He’s also had a record of being hostile towards our great allies in Israel. If there’s not going to be a unified Republican party to block someone that unqualified, are conservatives wrong to be suspicious that Senate Republicans aren’t willing to block anyone the President puts up?

MM: Well, I hope that’s not the case. This was a terrible nomination. As you indicated, I voted to block the nomination. And then when that was unsuccessful, voted to opposed the nomination. And all but a handful of my members opposed the nomination. You know, there’s some members of my conference who take the view that the President won the election, and even though this was a terrible choice, he’s entitled to make his choice, it’s not a lifetime appointment. My own view was this was a nomination that was so blatantly unacceptable that I had no qualms at all in this particular instance with denying the President his choice. I thought he could have done a lot better.

GB: All right, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, many thanks to you, sir. We hope to talk to you soon.

End of interview.

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