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Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell talks about the Democrats’ new attempt to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.

Friday, November 16, 2007
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HH: Joined now by the Republican leader in the United States Senate, the Honorable Mitch McConnell. Senator McConnell, always a pleasure, welcome back.

MM: Good to be with you.

HH: Well, the Democrats are trying to lose the war again. What’s going on in the Senate?

MM: Well, you’re right. Just as we’re making progress, significant progress, really, not in doubt, objective observers, even the New York Times says we’re making progress, they want to pull the plug. They want to have a date certain for withdrawal, they want to begin to force home the troops arbitrarily through a kind of Congressionally mandated surrender. We’ll be voting on that again, we’ll be able to defeat it. I’m going to offer as an alternative a troop funding bill without any restrictions that would carry us over until early next year. I don’t expect them to be able, I don’t expect it to pass, but I think it’ll enjoy the support of virtually all if not all Republicans.

HH: What will, then, how’s this play out? Because the troops need money, Senator.

MM: Yeah.

HH: Obviously, I don’t think it’s ever happened…

MM: We’ll come back to it in two weeks, Hugh. We are out Thanksgiving week and the week after that. We’ll be back the next week. This problem has got to be solved in December, and in my view, they will back down as they have in the past. We’ll see if I’m right about that, but I believe I am.

HH: Has the United States Congress ever refused to fund an army in the field?

MM: Not yet. You know, most of this is just playing games. I had my staff total up the number of Iraq votes we’ve had in the House and Senate. 61 so far, and there’ll be two more in the morning. That’ll bring us up to 63. I don’t think it’s working. You know, I’m sure you’ve spoken with your audience about the low approval ratings of this Congress. They just, this Congress is really just about Iraq votes and investigations, and we’ve done darn little. We haven’t done the basic work of government. One appropriation bill out of twelve, the Defense Department, fortunately, we got that one done. They haven’t fixed the alternative minimum tax, which is going to bite a huge number of middle class taxpayers if we don’t fix that. Here we are, backed up at the end of the year. This is the most hopelessly mismanaged situation I’ve seen in my time here.

HH: Now have you felt the wind shift, because I am beginning to feel that the country is disgusted, and they are holding Democrats accountable for the paralysis on the Hill. Do you feel that?

MM: Yeah, absolutely, and let me tell you the issue that’s reemerging, and I bet you’ve been talking about it, and that’s the tax issue.

HH: Yup.

MM: You saw last Friday that not a single Republican voted for this Rangel tax bill that purports to fix the alternative minimum tax, a tax we’re never going to collect anyway, by raising taxes on a whole lot of other people. We saw in the elections, Tuesday a week, in blue Oregon, a tobacco tax to provide health care for kids was defeated 60-40, in my home town of Louisville, Kentucky, a library tax, again sold as for “the children,” was defeated 2-1, the mayor of Indianapolis went down, and the majority of the Democratic city council along with them over a tax issue. I think taxes are back, and I think next year’s election is going to be about Hillary Clinton and this party, and where they want to take the country, taxation, regulation, litigation, those are the three things the Democratic party up here stands for.

HH: You know, I’m going to talk with Howard Fineman of Newsweek about his piece at the top of the hour, Senator. And he’s no longer certain it is going to be Senator Clinton at the head of that ticket because of the driver’s license issue, and her brittleness. What do you think?

MM: I think he’s wrong about that. People like Howard Fineman enjoy drama, and they’re trying to breath life into her opponents. I think she’s running a very tight, disciplined campaign. I’d be surprised if she isn’t the nominee.

HH: Now Senator McConnell, since she…let’s go for a moment with the fact that she is. She’s really not a liberal. I like to think of her and describe her as a radical, because her health care plans, her spending plans, her taxation plans, they’re way off the left side. Do you think the American people get that?

MM: Well, they will before the election. And amazingly enough, within, among the presidential candidates, she’s thought of as one of the more reasonable, so that gives you a sense of where all the rest of them are.

HH: All right.

MM: I mean, they really want to turn, Hugh, I think we’ve talked about this before, their goal is to turn America into France, when even the French are trying to change.

HH: Yes.

MM: I mean, we heard the president of France last week. He’s like Ronald Reagan.

HH: But that reminds me. Your colleagues in the Senate, some Republicans, want to turn the Law of the Sea Treaty into the first part of that agenda. Is that gone for this session, Senator McConnell? Will that…

MM: I think it’s gone for this year. It’ll probably be back. I think it’s an ill-advised step, one we don’t need to take, and it’s going to, there’s going to be significant opposition here in the Senate.

HH: All right. Let’s talk about politics for a second. Kentucky, you lost a Republican governor who had his own problems, we did not win in any of the Virginia Senate races that we needed to win in, so it still looks like a tough environment out there. First of all, the left is putting a target on you. I was at a convention of bloggers in Vegas last week, and all they want to do is take you out. How’s it look in the McConnell campaign? I’ve got to get some money to you. We’ve got to put your website up there.

MM: (laughing) Well, I have been targeted. MoveOn.org has got an office in Louisville. We’ve had demonstrators in the streets, ads on TV. There’s no question that they’ve decided who they want to beat the most, and it sure would be wonderful to hear from the people on the other side who think that that’s not the best interest, that the best interest of the country would not be served by my joining Tom Daschle in retirement. (laughing)

HH: Have you got McConnell for Senate up and running yet?

MM: Oh, yeah, we have a website, www.teammitch.com, and I would encourage people to visit our website, take a look at our ads, and obviously, if they want to support us, that would be a wonderful thing.

HH: www.teammitch.com. Now tell me about the rest of the Senate. You’re trying to get back to 50 or 51. But the wind’s still pretty heavy, although Louisiana looks pretty good.

MM: We’ve got a good shot in Louisiana, and you mentioned last Tuesday’s election, we have a, even though it didn’t happen last Tuesday, we have a new Republican governor in Louisiana. You mentioned Kentucky. What you did not mention that maybe you didn’t know is that we won a couple of down ticket races in Kentucky. It’s the first time when we were losing the top in Kentucky we elected anybody down ticket since 1915.

HH: Oh, I did not know that.

MM: It was clearly not a repudiation of Republicans. The governor had his own set of problems. And frankly, he just simply couldn’t overcome them. But we had success down ballot, we still control the state Senate, we still control four out of six Congressmen, we still have both United States Senators. Kentucky has not turned blue, in spite of the hopes of the left. But you know, it’s not Mississippi, either. It’s a pretty competitive right of center state, and there’s no question they’ve put the big target on me, and I’ll respond accordingly.

HH: Well, we will look forward to helping you. www.teammitch.com, America. Senator McConnell, always a pleasure. Beat the Democrats again. You do it so well and so often.

End of interview.

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