Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell joined me Tuesday morning:
HH: Right now, though, we bring you the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, the Honorable Mitch McConnell. Senator McConnell, always great to have you, welcome back, and welcome to the new Hugh Hewitt Show.
MM: Yeah, good morning. Congratulations on your new show, Hugh.
HH: Well, I like doing the morning. It’s a lot more fun to get ahead of the news rather than try and catch up with it. Let me ask you, Senator McConnell. There are breathless reports nearly every day of cracks in the wall against the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland. Do you see any cracks in that wall?
MM: I don’t see any. We had a couple of our members in blue states that have a contrary view, but there’s, you know, 52 others who are very comfortable with no hearings or no votes. And the reason for that is pretty clear. You’d have to go back 80 years to find the last time a vacancy on the Supreme Court occurred in the middle of a presidential year and was confirmed by the Senate. You’d have to go all the way back to 1888 with Grover Cleveland, a Democrat in the White House, to find the last time a Senate of the opposite party confirmed a nominee to a vacancy on the Supreme Court occurring in a presidential year. If that were not enough, Hugh, as I’m sure you’ve talked on your show repeatedly, Joe Biden when he was chairman of the Judiciary Committee in 1992, a presidential election year, said if a vacancy occurred, they wouldn’t fill it. Harry Reid said ten years ago that the Constitution didn’t require the Senate to even have a vote. And Chuck Schumer, the next Democrat leader, apparently, helpfully said in terms of this particular issue, 18 months before the end of Bush 43’s second term that had a vacancy occurred, they wouldn’t fill it. So look, we know if the shoe was on the other foot, this was a Republican president nominating someone to the Supreme Court for a vacancy occurring in a presidential year, a Democratic Senate wouldn’t act on it. And we’re not going to, either.
HH: So I am very justifiably proud about helping jump start #NoHearingsNoVotes. You believe there will be no hearings, and there will be no votes? You’re certain of that, Majority Leader McConnell?
MM: Yeah, there will be no hearings and no votes. And I did notice, Hugh, that you picked up on that very quickly. And I think it’s been very helpful, because the left is all in a stew. You know, they’re out there running ads and have paid people to show up at Chairman Grassley’s town hall meetings to try to harass him. But he’s been the Rock of Gibraltar. I think the American people understand that they ought to weigh in. We’re right in the middle of a presidential election. And we ought to hear from them as to who they want the next president to be before we fill this vacancy, not Barack Obama on the way out the door, the lamest of lame ducks, basically tipping the balance on the Supreme Court to the left for who knows how long, maybe the next quarter of a century. This is no small issue, and I assure you the Senate will not act on a nominee by Barack Obama.
HH: That doesn’t mean the Senate isn’t doing anything. In fact, yesterday you passed a long-awaited measure that is going to strengthen federal law and provide damages for U.S. companies affected by the theft of corporate intellectual property, according to The Hill this morning. That’s a product of bipartisanship. That’s a product of long overdue gears finally beginning to mesh between the House and the Senate. Hat’s off to you. Do you expect the President to sign that into law when it gets back to his desk through the House?
MM: Yeah, of course he will, and you know, this has been an incredibly productive new Senate majority. The American people, even though they chose divided government by having a Democrat in the White House and Republican House and Senate, we’re not saying they didn’t want us to do anything. They were saying why don’t you look for things you can agree on and do those. And if you look back to this new majority, Hugh, a little over a year ago, we put the Keystone Pipeline on his desk. We put the repeal of Obamacare on his desk. We put defund Planned Parenthood on his desk. Of course, we knew he wouldn’t sign them, but we also looked for things that we could actually do together to improve our condition in this country. We did trade promotion authority, we did a rewrite of No Child Left Behind, the elementary and secondary education measure. We did a five year highway bill, which hasn’t been done since the 90s. We did cybersecurity. We did permanent R & D tax credit. We did permanent 179 expensing, which is particularly important to farmers. We did a permanent ban on the internet tax, the possibility of internet taxes. We passed an important heroin and opioid measure. We’re going to continue to do the work of the American people, and despite all of the rhetoric in the country, which I understand, because people are unhappy with the condition of the country, the Senate is passing a lot of important measures that are good for the country.
HH: Richard Burr is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says an encryption bill is now circulating, a first draft of it. Do you expect an encryption bill to emerge before you head off to the convention cycle, Majority Leader McConnell?
MM: Well, we’re certainly looking at that issue. It’s a tough issue. We’re all concerned about privacy, but we’re also concerned about being able to access these tools that are increasingly being used by groups like ISIL. So it’s an interesting kind of balance between national security and legitimate privacy concerns. Hopefully, we can find a way to thread that needle, because the government is certainly not interested in accessing everybody’s iPhone.
HH: The Panama Papers that emerged, Leader McConnell, about the secret financial dealings, according to the Wall Street Journal, of the world’s rich, powerful, and in some cases, allegedly corrupt, from Iceland’s prime minister to David Cameron’s father, to longtime friends and associates of Putin. This is a stunning story that will take some weeks to get its arms around. But offshore banking is now a problem. Do you expect the Senate to hold hearings into the Panama Papers?
MM: You know, I don’t know, Hugh. That just, that story is just now emerging, and we’re going to have to take a look at it. But it’s certainly disturbing, and something I think we ought to look into.
HH: All right, now let me turn to politics. Your colleague in Congressional leadership, Speaker Ryan, called in yesterday. He’s going to be co-chair of the convention. And he very bluntly said the 112 members of the Rules Committee will write the rules for the convention. And clearly, they might keep 40B, they might not. What’s your advice to that committee about 40B, Leader McConnell?
MM: Well, the delegates are going to make that decision at the beginning of the convention. The simple, the fact that 40B, which I gather is the provision that says you have to carry eight states in order to be nominated, was in the previous rule. It doesn’t necessarily mean at this rule. In other words, the convention writes the rules at the beginning of every convention. How different they will be from the previous convention, no one knows at this point. What I can tell you for sure is that no one will be the nominee unless they get 1,237 delegate votes, which is required in order to be the nominee. And so no matter how they write the rules, at some point, someone will get 1,237 delegate votes and be the nominee. If it’s on the second ballot, obviously, it’ll be more interesting to people like you and the viewers around the country, because many states allow their delegates to be free agents after the first ballot. This could be a very, very interesting convention. We’ll see what happens.
HH: Now Leader McConnell, you are Mr. Kentucky, so if the two members, the national committee woman and national committee man is on the Rules Committee and they come up and ask your advice, are you going to suggest to them it’s better for the party to have it wide open and to dump those old rules? Or is it better for the party to have just Trump and Cruz nominated from the front of the room?
MM: Well, I think what I’m going to do for the time being is not weigh in on this issue, because I’m committed to supporting the nominee, whoever that may be. It’s a good chance I’m going to be a delegate myself, so I’ll have to make that decision at the appropriate time.
HH: Do you want to be on the Rules Committee? Or do you want to dodge that one?
MM: I don’t think I’ll be on the Rules Committee, but it could be an extremely important committee this time.
HH: Oh, my gosh, it’s going to be interesting. There’s a Wall Street Journal editorial this morning, The Real Kasich Threat, that says look, they may turn to John Kasich, the convention, the delegates, the 1,237, because he’s electable. Would that shock you, Senator McConnell? You’ve seen a lot of politics over the years. Kentucky’s a convention state. Would it shock you if the convention developed a mind and will of its own and sought out electability?
MM: Look, I want to win the election. And I hope that all the delegates believe that being able to beat Hillary Clinton is important. That’s the whole purpose of this, to win the election, you know, not just to make a point, but to make a difference. And the way you make a difference in political matters is you win the election, and then you get to make policy.
HH: Then that goes back to the no hearings, no votes. There’s no point to that unless we get to a Supreme Court nominee. We’ve got to win the election.
MM: Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, this is no small matter. You know, the fundamental question is do we want four more years just like the last eight? I want to go in a different direction.
HH: Senator Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader of the United States Senate, thanks for joiing us, always a great pleasure to have you.
End of interview.