Sen. McCon­nell: Democrats will ‘turn us into France’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By S.A. Miller and Sean Lengell

The Se­nate’s top Repub­li­can says Democrats’ sights are set on Euro­pean-style so­cial­ism, and de­rided likely Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Sen. Barack Obama’s claims of be­ing a uni­fier — one of the ma­jor sell­ing points the Illi­nois Demo­crat makes on the cam­paign trail.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, in a likely preview of the Repub­li­can line of at­tack in the gen­eral elec­tion, said Demo­cratic lead­ers and Mr. Obama “get up ev­ery morn­ing with three things on their minds: more taxes, more reg­u­la­tion and more lit­i­ga­tion.”

“It’s pretty clear to me that the Demo­cratic agenda is to turn us into France,” the Ken­tucky Repub­li­can told The Wash­ing­ton Times in an un­usu­ally blunt in­ter­view at his of­fice in the Capi­tol. “Amer­i­cans may want change, but the ques­tion is, what kind of change?”

As for Mr. Obama, Mr. McCon­nell said, the sen­a­tor from Illi­nois, un­like his ex­pected Repub­li­can ri­val in Novem­ber, has never taken the lead on bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion.

“I can’t think of a sin­gle oc­ca­sion upon which [Mr. Obama] has been in­volved with Repub­li­cans on any mean­ing­ful leg­is­la­tion,” he said. “He’s a straight-line, big-gov­ern­ment, high-tax­ing lib­eral.”

Mr. McCon­nell is set­ting aside past pol­icy dis­putes with that Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona. He said the Demo­cratic Party’s push to the far left has opened the door for the mav­er­ick, who will at­tract in­de­pen­dent vot­ers and is ar­guably the strong­est can­di­date Repub­li­cans could field at a time of wide­spread dis­sat­is­fac­tion with Wash­ing­ton.

“He’s some­body that has a demon­strated abil­ity to reach across the aisle, to bro­ker leg­is­la­tion with Democrats, and I think a large num­ber of the Amer­i­can peo- ple are look­ing for some­one who can do just that,” he said.

Mr. McCon­nell, who over the years ex­pressed dis­com­fort as Mr. McCain broke with con­ser­va­tives on cam­paign-fi­nance re­form, taxes and im­mi­gra­tion, said the dec­o­rated Navy fighter pilot nev­er­the­less will win sup­port from the Repub­li­can base, and the con­trast with Mr. Obama boosts Repub­li­cans’ con­fi­dence that they can keep con­trol of the White House.

“He will ap­point the kind of judges that are im­por­tant to the mem­bers of my party. I think he’s been a stal­wart sup­porter of a strong na­tional de­fense and stand­ing up to ter­ror­ists,” he said. “I don’t have any dis­com­fort what­so­ever” with Mr. McCain’s con­ser­va­tive cre­den­tials.

“We haven’t had any run-ins,” said Mr. McCon­nell, who sev­eral years ago led an un­suc­cess­ful law­suit to over­turn the McCain-Fein­gold cam­paign-fi­nance law. “We have ar­gu­ments on pol­icy around here all the time. There’s noth­ing un­usual about that. That’s what we do in the Se­nate.”

“I’m en­thu­si­as­ti­cally in his cor­ner,” he said.

The mi­nor­ity leader noted that the na­tional elec­torate in­creas­ingly shares his de­vo­tion to Mr. McCain, with polls show­ing him even with or slightly ahead of Mr. Obama.

Mr. McCon­nell dis­missed the no­tion that Pres­i­dent Bush’s un­pop­u­lar­ity could be a po­lit­i­cal li­a­bil­ity for Repub­li­cans. “The pres­i­dent is not on the bal­lot” this year, he said.

“This elec­tion is go­ing to be about the next four years and where do the two can­di­dates for pres­i­dent — and the mem­bers of the Se­nate run­ning with them — want to take Amer­ica,” Mr. McCon­nell said.

He said he agrees with most po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts that the odds are “pretty slim” for Repub­li­cans to win a ma­jor­ity.

Repub­li­cans and Democrats each hold 49 seats, but two in­de­pen­dents — Sens. Bernard San­ders of Ver­mont and Joe Lieber­man of Con­necti­cut — cau­cus with the Democrats, giv­ing the party a ma­jor­ity. Among the seats open in Novem­ber, 23 are held by Repub­li­cans and 12 are held by Democrats.

“The math is not great” for Se­nate Repub­li­cans, he said.

But in a leg­isla­tive body that of­ten re­quires 60 votes for mea­sures to pro­ceed, Mr. McCon­nell said, mi­nor­ity Repub­li­cans can still wield sig­nif­i­cant lever­age in help­ing craft and pass leg­is­la­tion on pend­ing ma­jor is­sues, such as an emer­gency spend­ing bill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and a hous­ing mea­sure aimed at curb­ing the rise in home fore­clo­sures.

“We’re nowhere near ir­rel­e­vant,” he said. “We’re go­ing to have a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Se­nate Repub­li­cans af­ter the elec­tion — sig­nif­i­cant enough to have an im­pact in our very un­usual body that hap­pens to be the only leg­isla­tive body in the world where a ma­jor­ity is not enough.”

Mr. McCon­nell said he sup­por ts a mas­sive pro­posal to re­new farm- and food-sub­sidy pro­grams that many gov­ern­ment watch­dog groups — as well as the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion — have con­demned as egre­gious ex­am­ples of gov­ern­ment waste.

The sen­a­tor from Ken­tucky de­fended a pro­vi­sion he in­cluded in the bill to give tax breaks for race­horse own­ers — a pro­vi­sion some op­po­nents of the mea­sure have held up as clas­sic pork-bar­rel spend­ing — say­ing it would cor­rect long­stand­ing un­fair tax treat­ment for his state’s sig­na­ture in­dus­try.

“Mem­bers of Congress are not go­ing to pass bills that have no im­pli­ca­tions on their states,” he said. “Mem­bers of Congress are not likely to pass bills that give 100 per­cent author­ity over ev­ery­thing to any ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Mr. McCon­nell also ac­cused Se­nate Demo­cratic lead­er­ship of slow-walk­ing the con­fir­ma­tion process for three cir­cuit court nom­i­nees that Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, said he would tr y to com­plete by Me­mo­rial Day.

Democrats “still have an op­por­tu­nity to keep the com­mit­ment they’ve made [on the nom­i­na­tions], so we’ll see,” he said. “And if they don’t, stay tuned.”

Astrid Riecken / The Wash­ing­ton Times

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell says Congress’ hard-line lib­er­als, in­clud­ing Mr. Obama, “get up ev­ery morn­ing with three things on their minds: more taxes, more reg­u­la­tion and more lit­i­ga­tion.” He thinks this ide­o­log­i­cal shift will be un­pop­u­lar with vot­ers, mak­ing Sen. John McCain com­pet­i­tive in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion this fall.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.