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McConnell makes a case for bipartisanship but highlights where he differs with Biden

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Jennifer P. Brown
/
The Hoptown Chronicle
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at a Hopkinsville Rotary Club lunch meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, at the Memorial Building.

Several days after raising doubts that the GOP can regain control of the U.S. Senate in the November midterm elections, Sen. Mitch McConnell told a Hopkinsville audience that he hopes American voters want to go in a different direction than President Joe Biden’s administration.

Biden was the only national political leader that McConnell mentioned by name during a 12-minute speech Tuesday to the Hopkinsville Rotary Club. He focused on his party’s fiscal differences with the Democratic president and never mentioned the fellow Republican who still dominates conservative political talk — former President Donald Trump.

“Frequently these off-year elections are pretty good for the party out of control,” McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader, said. “Nothing is automatic but the American people have to express themselves, and I hope they will.”

McConnell did not take questions from any Rotarians and guests who packed the Memorial Building for the lunch meeting, and he declined to speak with news reporters after posing for photographs with individuals for several minutes. A staff member said he didn’t have time for questions because he was headed to a private meeting at H&R Agri-Power.

Previously at a meeting in Northern Kentucky, McConnell told NBC News, “I think there’s probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different — they’re statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome.”

In Hopkinsville, McConnell spoke more generally about bipartisanship and the health of the country’s democracy.

“Even if you have really big political differences, I think we all have an obligation to try to look for the things we can agree on and make some progress for the country,” he said. “Think of a football field. Look for things within the 40 year line that aren’t overly partisan, that you can do together to make some progress for the country.”

The senator said he’s supported Biden-backed legislation for infrastructure, microchip manufacturing, postal reforms, and school safety and mental health measures.

Then he added, “Everything else that this administration has done has been, I think, a gargantuan mistake.”

He blamed the American Rescue Plan Act for triggering inflation. (The city of Hopkinsville is using $2 million from its share of ARPA funds to repave numerous streets in the city.)

“My colleagues here in the state legislature will say [the $1.9 trillion federal package] has put Kentucky government in the best financial condition in its history — but I didn’t vote for it and it shouldn’t have been done,” he said.

A former treasury secretary in President Bill Clinton’s administration predicted the American Rescue Plan would cause record inflation, and that’s exactly what happened, McConnell said.

He called it “a gargantuan political mistake that you all are paying for everyday at the grocery store, at the gas pump and everything else.”

Repeating a line he’s used recently in other appearances, McConnell said Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act that passed earlier this month reminded him of the old saying that a person in a hole needs to stop digging.

“Well, they keep digging the hole even deeper,” he said of Democratic-sponsored legislation.

The Inflation Reduction Act — a scaled-back version of the Build Back Better bill that Democrats could not pass — raises taxes on corporations, seeks to lower prescription drug prices and makes the country’s largest ever investment in efforts to combat climate change.

McConnell gave his assessment of American democracy.

“In case you have been concerned about rhetoric in our country — and I am too, occasionally — let me just say it pales in comparison to what Jefferson and Adams said about each other,” he said. “In other words, we’ve been a big raucous, debating country right from the beginning. But at the end, the one thing that we all had in common is that we revered the constitution, and when our arguments were over we accepted the outcome and we moved on.”

Despite the reference to “outcomes” the senator did not directly address debates swirling around Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. On Monday, Trump said on his Truth Social platform that he demanded to be reinstated or to have a new election immediately. McConnell also never mentioned Trump’s recent harsh criticism of him and his wife, Elaine Chao, who was Transportation secretary under Trump.

McConnell said he believes “America is not in danger of losing” the democracy that “we’ve kept together.”

He also cracked a few jokes, including one about being in politics “even a little bit longer than Tribble,” a reference to Christian County Judge-Executive Steve Tribble, who was in the audience and is seeking his eighth term as the Democratic head of county government. Several local candidates were present, including Tribble’s Republican challenger, Magistrate Jerry Gilliam.

This story was originally published by the Hoptown Chronicle, a nonprofit newsroom covering Hopkinsville, Kentucky.

Jennifer P. Brown is the founder and editor of Hoptown Chronicle.
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