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McConnell Touts Federal Spending On Kentucky Projects

Michelle Hanks

  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says his ability to include Kentucky-specific items in the federal spending bill is a reason voters should reelect him in 2020.

McConnell held a press conference in Louisville on Monday to tout nine local initiatives that he says he was able to advance because of his role leading the U.S. Senate.

“That gives me an opportunity to give Kentucky the chance to punch above its weight,” McConnell said.

During prepared remarks, McConnell called out one of the Democrats running for the chance to unseat him in 2020: retired Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath.

“I have a question for her here as we go into the new year: ‘In what way would Kentucky have been better off without any of these items that I put in the year-end spending bill?’” McConnell said.

McConnell celebrated nine items, including fixes to federal health and pension benefits for coal miners, funding for a new VA center in Louisville and money to combat Asian carp in Kentucky’s western lakes.

Since becoming the Senate Majority Leader after the 2014 election, McConnell has used his ability to secure funding for Kentucky projects as a campaign issue, saying Kentuckians benefit from having one of their own in leadership.

Still, McConnell is rated as the most unpopular senator in the country according to a Morning Consult poll from over the summer.

Democratic hopeful Amy McGrath’s spokeswoman Jackie Thompson said in a statement that McConnell “only serves the special interests that fund his political campaigns.”

“Now that he’s in danger of losing his power, he thinks we won’t notice he’s in the pocket of big pharma, or that he’s trying to take away our health care. We know what to do with a politician who doesn’t care about us: Vote them out, just like we did to Matt Bevin,” Thompson wrote.

Marine veteran and farmer Mike Broihier is also running for the Democratic nomination. Louisville Democratic state Rep. Charles Booker is still considering whether to run.

McConnell has drawn four Republican primary challengers, including former Republican state Rep. Wesley Morgan, who lost reelection in 2018.

“Well you get a report card in this business and I’ll get two next year — one in the primary and one in the general,” McConnell said.

McConnell largely refused to answer questions about his oversight of the impending trial in the U.S. Senate over whether to remove President Donald Trump from office, instead referring reporters to an interview he did on Fox & Friends Monday morning.

During that interview, McConnell said he wasn’t opposed to allowing witnesses during the trial, but was still at an “impasse” over the trial’s rules because Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi hasn’t yet transmitted the official articles of impeachment from the U.S. House to the Senate.

“I’m not anxious to have this trial,” McConnell said. “So if she wants to hold on to the papers, go right on ahead.”

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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